Not every college application will come back with an acceptance, and sometimes you'll instead get deferred. This can be disappointing, but it doesn't mean the end of your journey. We talked to counselors to get some advice on what your deferral plan of action might include.
"In my experience, there's often a reason why colleges defer students," says Carter Delloro, director of college counseling at the Academy at Penguin Hall in Wenham, Mass. "I tell my students to reach out to their rep at the college from which they were deferred and ask if there's anything else the admissions office might want to see. This serves the dual purpose of demonstrating your continued interest and learning if there are any other gaps you can fill in for them. Of course, it's also time to put into action the Plan B that you spent the last several months constructing with your college counselor (hopefully)."
Before you get started on your Plan-B list of schools, you can take some steps to deal with being deferred and what to do next.
Bryn Campbell, assistant director of college guidance at Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, Penn., offers this guidance of what to do when you learn you've been deferred:
1. Being Deferred Is a Second Chance, Not the End of the Road
Many think that being deferred means there is no shot and they look at it as a denial. "I try to shift their thinking to the second chance because if a college did not want you, they would have already sent you that denial," she says. Instead they see your potential and are giving you a chance to showcase yourself.
2. Read Your Deferral Letter Carefully
Most of them will tell you the exact next steps to take. It might include responding via email or a form to reaffirm your interest. It might be they need midyear or current grades. Maybe they want an additional letter of recommendation. Did you take the SAT or ACT again and not send your updated scores? Read carefully and follow their directions.
3. It's Not Always About First Semester Grades, Though They Are Important
What else can you tell the admission office about yourself? Have you won any recent awards? Completed a project you are proud of that relates to your academic interests? Tell them! This is not the time to be humble.
4. Take a Look at Your College Application With Fresh Eyes
Where have you gotten in? Would you be happy at any of those schools? Which other schools are still due to send you decisions? Would you be okay if you did not get any more "yes" responses from schools? If not, take a look at a few more places to apply. Be honest with yourself and authentic with your college applications.
On the other hand, sometimes students are deferred for a reason you might not expect.
"Sometimes students can be denied admission, not because they aren't qualified, but because they are more than qualified. The admissions officers may believe the student won't accept the spot if offered. If this happens too often, it lowers the college's yield— the number of acceptances in relation to admission offers — and low yield reflects poorly on a college," explains Michelle Silbernagel, an independent educational consultant with Touchstone Advising.
Silbernagel recommends that this is a good time to really demonstrate interest in these target colleges and "show them some love." Students can send fall grades, updates on recent achievements or awards along with a note about the specific things they like about the college, the programs or academic features that put the college on their list in the first place, she says.
And hopefully, you can get accepted in the next round if that is truly your first choice school. But if not, think of this an opportunity to apply to other colleges — and you might even find a better fit that the first choice that deferred you.
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