Deferred College Application: What To Do Next

Picutre of young man with red glasses screaming with anger at his laptop
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/22

Anxiously awaiting an admissions decision is hard, especially when you get deferred. But what is a deferred college application? And what does it mean if a college defers you? Read on to have all your questions answered!

Waiting for a college admissions decision is an emotional rollercoaster; it has its ups and downs and, as is the case with free food on college open days, long queues. Like the queue-jumping tickets that theme parks offer, colleges offer eager applicants a way to get ahead of the pack: early admissions.

Unfortunately, some prospective students exit the ride with an early offer of admission,  while others can be denied or left in a state of admissions limbo with a deferred college application. This article will outline what to do when you’re deferred from college, what a deferred college application is, and why you may be deferred.

Deferred College Application: What to Do Next

    After receiving your deferral letter, the most important thing to do is sit down, fire up your laptop, and find out what you should or shouldn’t send to the college. You can find out what each college requires on their websites.

    Some colleges request additional information, while others simply want your midyear grades. With that in mind, read on to learn what to do when you’re deferred.

    Infographic outlining what to do after getting deferred

    Continue Your College Search

    The college that deferred you might have been your dream school, but now that you’ve been deferred, it’s a great time to go back to your college research, reevaluate your school choices, and build your college list again.

    After your research, selecting a healthy range of schools with varying degrees of selectivity is an excellent way to cover every base if your deferral ultimately ends in denial. If you’re struggling to find a balanced mix of safety, match, and reach schools, your school counselor can review your list and help you decide where to apply.

    Many schools set their regular decision deadlines at the start of the new year, so you must act fast if you want to submit other applications. Alternatively, if a specific college is now at the top of your list, you can consider applying through the second round of early decision if they offer that option.

    Demonstrate Your Continued Interest

    Being a deferred candidate means there’s more work to be done. Sometimes colleges defer applicants with non-binding applications because other applicants demonstrated a stronger interest, and they want to see this interest before admitting them.

    Indeed, a report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found that 13.7% of colleges thought “demonstrated interest” was a considerably important part of making admissions decisions, while another 25.5% said it was moderately important. 

    One of the most common ways to demonstrate interest is by writing a letter of continued interest (LOCI). A LOCI is often a one-page letter that reaffirms your interest in the school to increase your chances of acceptance.

    Some schools may prefer other methods. As an example, an admissions counselor at UChicago notes that a short one or two-paragraph email sent to your regional admissions counselor is sufficient. However, if the school that deferred you accepts letters or further communications, start drafting your LOCI as soon as possible!

    Writing Your LOCI

    If possible, your introduction should address the individual who sent your deferral letter. Greet them and thank them for their time and consideration – after all, admissions officers read thousands of applications! You should maintain a formal tone throughout the letter.

    After thanking the recipient for reviewing your application, you must demonstrate your continued interest. Approach this almost like a love letter; if you still love the school, explain how and why you’re head over heels for it, although you should try to phrase it slightly more formally.

    The goal here is to connect your interest in the school with a unique aspect of it. You can describe this in several ways, such as:

    • Mentioning a campus visit
    • Explaining how and why you would fit into the college’s community
    • Highlighting why certain classes will help you succeed
    • Describing how the school will allow you to reach your educational/career goals
    Maria Finan, the Assistant Director of Admissions at Notre Dame University, notes, “This letter is a great opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about yourself, and to explain why you would love to attend Notre Dame. Think beyond why you want to attend Notre Dame, and be sure to include what you hope to bring to the Notre Dame community.”

    After declaring your interes, a key part of any LOCI is including relevant updates since your initial application that highlight your candidacy. This can include receiving higher grades or standardized test scores, pursuing additional voluntary or extracurricular activities, and obtaining awards or recognition.

    Including a personal story about why you’re interested in the particular college can help your case and make your letter more engaging. After, write a brief conclusion that reiterates your interest, and ensure to thank the recipient again. Here is an example of a LOCI that can act as a guide for yours:

    “Dear Dr. Tyrell,
    Thank you for your consideration and for taking the time to reevaluate my application materials. I'm currently on the waitlist and would like to state my continued interest in Greenview University. Since I applied in December, I've increased my GPA from 3.5 to 3.67. I've successfully completed advanced courses in statistics, calculus and physics. As I complete my final semester, I hope to raise my GPA to 3.7. I've also developed my business skills and knowledge by completing a volunteer program through my local animal shelter. I'm hoping to pursue a career in business by studying economics and finance.
    Greenview University remains my top choice for university. When I visited your school last fall, I knew the second I stepped onto campus that it was where I wanted to study. Greenview's focus on small classrooms and giving back to the local community are something I value highly.
    I've included my most recent transcripts, showing my updated grades. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there's anything else I can provide. Thank you again for taking the time to reevaluate my application. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Peter Boyd”

    This letter does all the right things:

    • It starts with a thank you
    • Notes an increase in GPA
    • Explores the new activities the writer has pursued
    • Brings the letter’s focus back to the college itself and explains why the writer wants to go there

    Remember, whether you’re writing a LOCI or a short email, proofreading your work is essential. If you’re struggling to make any headway, approach it in two stages.

    First, look at the content and highlight areas that need more work. Afterward, ensure your grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style are correct – the technical aspects of your writing are important!

    Send Your Midyear Grades

    Every college will want to see your midyear report to gauge how you are handling the workload in your senior year, so you cannot afford to slack off for the rest of the year.

    Being a deferred candidate means you should strive to maintain a strong academic performance throughout your senior year or achieve higher grades to place yourself in a better position. Ensure you note any changes in GPA or class ranks, as these factors can help increase your chances of admission.

    Many high school counselors send your midyear report automatically. However, it’s worth double-checking with your counselor, as it can affect your application if they don’t send it on time.

    Send an Additional Letter of Recommendation

    While many schools do not accept an additional recommendation, some do. Take advantage of this opportunity to show how you’ve grown since you submitted your application.

    Your letters of recommendation provide insight into your personality. Some experts say that recommendations provide better evidence of future success than test scores. Try asking someone you have worked closely with, like a:

    • Teacher
    • Coach
    • Supervisor
    • Manager

    At this stage, your evaluation must add something new to your application. Choose someone who can write about the new activities you’ve pursued or the better grades you’ve received.

    If you can’t point to any significant changes in your GPA or extracurricular activities, try to address gaps in your application; are there experiences or attributes you didn’t explain well enough?

    What NOT To Do

    Of course, if there is a right way to do something, there is always a wrong way. So, what does “application deferred” mean for you? It means you have some more work to do. Determining what the college wants from you is always your next best step.

    If their website is vague, sending a short email or a LOCI is fine. However, admissions officers have everything they need at this stage, so pestering them with continual emails, calls, and letters is not recommended - they are busy people!

    What Is a Deferred College Application?

    So, what does a deferred application mean? If you have applied to a college through early decision, your application can be accepted, denied, or deferred. While the first two options are pretty self-explanatory, the third is more complicated.

    Receiving a deferred college application means an admissions committee wants to review your application with the regular decision pool. You are still viewed as a competitive applicant in the eyes of the committee, but the members decided to give you a second ride around the admissions rollercoaster.

    While your application can be denied when re-reviewed, it can also be accepted. After all, the admissions committee wants to take a second look at it for a reason - it’s a competitive application!

    Why Was I Deferred?

    The unfortunate reality of college admissions is that many strong applicants and applications are deferred. In particular, elite and Ivy League schools don’t have the capacity to admit every student, even if you meet their lofty academic requirements and have impressive extracurriculars.

    For example, the table below outlines the deferral rate and subsequent regular decision acceptance rate of Early Decision and Early Action applicants for MIT, Yale, and Georgetown:

    Table outlining the deferral and regular decision acceptance rate of Early Decision and Early Action applicants for MIT, Yale, and Georgetown
    Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4 

    While Georgetown is different because it will defer every applicant that isn’t admitted, the competition during early admissions is incredibly rigorous at any elite school.

    While it’s natural to feel disappointed and angry, a deferral isn’t a rejection; a college would reject you if they didn’t want you. If you’re deferred, you’re qualified, but the admissions committee wants to see how you compare to regular decision applicants. The deferred acceptance rate can vary by school.

    FAQs: Deferred College Application

    1. Can I Call Or Email to Find Out Why I Was Deferred?

    No. Admissions committees make decisions regarding applications as a group, so no single individual will be able to say why you were deferred. What you should do when you get deferred is turn your attention to the school’s website for more information.

    2. If a College Defers Me, Do They Still Want Me?

    Yes! Take Yale’s response as an example, “A deferral from Yale means one thing and one thing only: We need more time to consider your application. It’s important to understand this. You were not deferred because there is something wrong with your application. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: if you were deferred it means your application is strong enough to continue to be seriously considered by the admissions committee.”

    3. How Can I Improve My Chances of Admission If I Am Deferred?

    What you can do to improve your chances of admission depends on what the college you are applying to wants to receive from you. Princeton says that unless you have a significant update, they have everything they need to reconsider your application.

    Alternatively, UChicago recommends that you send an email to your regional admissions counselor expressing that UChicago is still your top choice. Sending a short email lets them know you’re still interested.

    4. Should I Visit the College That Deferred My Application?

    Again, whether this helps your chances depends on the college. While college visits can be time-consuming and expensive, it’s the most well-known way to demonstrate your interest, especially as it’s something you can highlight in your LOCI.

    Additionally, touring campuses is a great way to gauge if a particular school is a good fit for you. If you cannot attend an in-person seminar or college visit, consider participating in a regional college fair or a college-run virtual tour or webinar.

    5. How Likely Am I to Be Accepted After Getting Deferred?

    While this is incredibly hard to judge, as you cannot predict the caliber of the regular decision students you’re up against, you should remain hopeful. A deferred college application means the admissions committee thinks you have potential, but it’s difficult to judge your chances of getting in after being deferred.

    6. Is Getting Deferred a Good Thing?

    If a college defers you, it doesn’t mean your application wasn’t good enough; it just means they want to evaluate you with regular decision applicants. In one way, getting deferred could be good because it’s not an outright rejection.

    Deferred, Not Defeated

    “I got deferred,” isn’t the end of your college journey. Receiving a deferred college application may not be ideal, but you’re still in the race; the admissions committee just wants you to take another lap.

    After receiving your deferral, start your college search again - it’s best to have a backup. If you decide that the college that deferred you is still your top choice, demonstrate your interest by sending a LOCI, update them with your midyear grades, and visit them if you can. Good luck, and we wish you the best with your reconsideration!

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