Early Action Applicant Deferred at Berklee College of Music

Question: My daughter auditioned at Berklee Music School back in December. On January 31st she was notified that her application has been moved to the regular decision pool. A little disappointing in a way. Would have really liked to have known either way. But people here have been saying that it's a good thing that she hasn't gotten a rejection letter and that they are still considering her. She sent an email to admissions asking if she can send any documents along i.e. letters of recommendation, College essay, etc. None of these documents were required in the application. Admissions responded promptly and told her that there was nothing she needed to do or send to them at this time. She is nervous, though because they are still doing auditions through February. The final decisions will be made on March 31. She thinks that because her audition was over 2 months ago, they will forget about her. Is there anything she can or should do in the meantime to express her desire to be accepted? Or should she just wait it out? And does being moved from EA to RA increase her chances of acceptance or not? I know it is probably difficult to give any definite answers to these questions, but I'm just wondering if you know of some instances like these in your experiences. Thank you

While an Early Action deferral isn't the news that your daughter had hoped for, it's not as dire as it may have first seemed ... just frustrating because she's now stuck in limbo land (and you along with her!). A big difference between Early Action and Early Decision is that the latter requires a binding commitment. Thus colleges often take what I call a “bird-in-hand" approach. That is, they will admit students who are very solid but not extraordinary because they know that these kids are excited to enroll and should be sure-things. Early Action, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. It requires the college to save a space for a candidate who may—or may not—show up in September. So, typically, the students who get accepted in the EA round are the cream of the crop. As for those who are “very solid but not extraordinary," many of these, too, will receive good news in the spring, once the admission committee gets a chance to see them in the context of the entire applicant pool.

In the meantime, Berklee won't forget about your daughter. She should NOT submit any extras (essay, recommendations) that the admission folks already told her that they don't want to see. What she CAN do, however, if she hasn't already, is to let Berklee know that it is her number-one choice and that she will definitely enroll if admitted (assuming that this is true). Colleges love high “yields." (That's the number of accepted students who matriculate.) So if they can count on your daughter to boost their yield figures, it will work in her favor.

In addition, she can consider sending an “Update" letter. Here is an old “Ask the Dean" column that includes a sample:

Updates that involve her musical achievements are especially useful. And make sure that she understands that “achievement" doesn't only mean being selected for an elite orchestra or winning an award. College officials are also eager to hear if a musician has started a gig at a local restaurant or is playing on Sundays in the subway!

But, if your daughter feels that she really has nothing new to report, she should skip it. (Most seniors don't have any head-spinning new achievements because they're too busy with applications and school work in the fall and early winter months.) If, however, she doesn't send a complete update, she should still send a brief note that emphasizes her intention to choose Berklee, if accepted.

Although being moved from EA to Regular Decision won't give your daughter any major advantage, it could be a tiny plus. Admission officials will know that she was interested enough in Berklee to submit an early application and arrange for an early audition. Even so, rather than letting them infer her commitment from this, encourage her to write one more time to explicitly state it!