What does being deferred from college mean? We’ll outline everything you need to know about admissions limbo and more, including your chances of getting in after being deferred.
Applying to college is a long and sometimes emotional process: you’re excited about possibly attending your dream school, but you’re also nervously wringing your hands waiting for an admissions decision.
But what happens if your application gets cast into limbo through deferral? Do you still have a fighting chance at getting accepted? We’ll walk you through what it means to be deferred from a college, your chance of acceptance after deferral, and more.
So, what does it mean to be deferred from a college? When you apply to any college through an early decision program, you can expect one of three things to happen: your application will either be accepted, denied, or deferred.
If your application is deferred, it means the admissions committee wants to review your application again with the regular decision applicant pool. Don’t give up; there’s a big difference between a deferred versus a rejected college application.
Hannah Mendlowitz, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Yale University, said, “If you were deferred it means your application is strong enough to continue to be seriously considered by the admissions committee.”
Although being deferred by your dream school can make your head spin, remember to take a deep breath. You’re not necessarily out of the running yet.
Deferral numbers can vary significantly, and many schools don’t release deferral statistics. Many highly competitive schools defer a significant chunk of early decision applicants each cycle.
Most early decision applicants have stellar applications, and it can be difficult to reject them when so many students can add value and differentiation to the incoming class.
To give you an example of how broad college deferral statistics can be, here is data for schools that released relevant statistics:
The data shows you have a greater chance of being deferred from a college than accepted, so don’t fret if it happens to you. You’re in the same boat as many other early decision applicants.
Some schools, like Georgetown University, defer all early decision applicants that don't get accepted. Every school is different, and there’s no uniform way to gauge your deferral chances.
It can be incredibly disappointing to see your deferred status, meaning you might feel like the battle is already lost. Don’t lose hope if you’ve been deferred; if the school you applied to genuinely wasn’t interested in you, your application would’ve been rejected outright. A college may defer you for a few reasons.
The school may need more time to review your application. It’s not because it wasn’t strong enough for the admissions committee. Remember, admissions committees receive thousands of applications each cycle. They sometimes need extra time to give your application the comprehensive review it deserves.
Another reason is that colleges aim to build a diverse, well-rounded class. A diverse class allows students to learn from one another and gain new perspectives that challenge their own views of the world.
Monica Inzer, Vice President for Enrolment Management at Hamilton College, said, "Their learning is elevated to a different level because they can appreciate and understand and hear from someone from a different background, which may change their thinking. Or maybe it doesn't, but it informs how they position themselves in their own thoughts and opinions.”
The last reason is a deferred application gives you more time to gather materials. Sometimes colleges want to see what you’re doing in your senior year to boost the status of your application before the regular decision round.
Deferral means you can provide more information about recent achievements or awards, grade improvements, and more.
You have a better chance of your early decision application getting deferred than accepted. But what does your deferred status mean once you’ve joined the regular decision pool?
The answer once again varies from school to school. MIT, for example, states: “It’s just too hard for us to know how things will shake out in an applicant pool that we haven’t even fully seen yet!”
However, MIT states it’s admitted anywhere from 100 to 300 students in past years through regular decision who were initially deferred. That means your chances are between 0.9% to 2.8%. While this seems astronomically low, statistics aren’t everything: the strength of your application is what matters most.
On the other hand, Georgetown University reports that approximately 15% of deferred applicants are accepted during the school’s spring review. In comparison, the school accepted 10.8% of early action applicants.
Based on these statistics, you have a better chance of getting accepted after deferral than through early action. Overall, it isn't easy to pinpoint your chances of deferred acceptance, meaning the best thing you can do is not give up hope. You’re still in the running!
So, you’ve received a notice your application has been deferred. At first, you’ll probably feel disappointed. Take some time to feel your feelings, but understand that you still have a chance of acceptance. You can do many things to make the best of the situation.
Even if the school you applied to was perfect for you, rest assured knowing many other excellent schools could be the right fit for you. You might want to do more college research to determine the schools you want to apply to through regular decision.
Reformatting your college list doesn’t mean you’ve given up on the possibility of being accepted at your dream school, but that you’re proactive enough to prepare for all possible outcomes. After identifying which schools mesh with your educational goals and personality, it’s time to act quickly and submit applications.
While you shouldn’t inundate the college that deferred you with phone calls and emails, demonstrating your continued interest can help tip the scales in your favor. If you applied through a non-binding early action program, the college might want to see more commitment from you before they accept you.
A common way to demonstrate continued interest is by submitting a letter of continued interest (LOCI). A LOCI shows admissions committees that you’re serious about attending. Some schools prefer short emails or other methods, so ensure you check expectations before diving headfirst into communicating with the college.
Your senior year is the time to go full tilt and keep your GPA as high as possible. Midyear reports show you’ve continued to display academic excellence into your senior year. Don’t let your grades dip in the face of a deferred college application.
Keeping your GPA high shows your resilience and diligence, qualities top colleges seek in applicants. Remember, keeping up with your grades means a deferred acceptance is more likely.
Many schools ask that you stay in touch after deferral and keep them updated on changes to your candidacy. Besides achieving high grades, there are many things you can do to enhance your candidacy.
If the college allows new letters of recommendation, consider asking someone for another one. You can ask your senior teachers, coach, extracurricular supervisor, or anyone else that can give the admissions committee an in-depth description of your personality and character.
Ensure your new letter brings something different to the table than the ones you’ve already submitted. Differentiation is key to a more robust application.
If you pursued new extracurricular activities or received any awards or honors, you should update the college. Community service projects show your willingness to contribute to your community; awards or honors show recognition, hard work, and talent.
College deferrals can be an emotional rollercoaster. Below we’ll tackle some common college admissions deferral questions so you have all the clarification you need if your application is deferred.
While waitlists and deferrals cast your application into admissions limbo, they’re not the same. Colleges use waitlists to ensure their incoming class is full. You can get accepted from a waitlist if enough admitted students don’t accept an offer of admission.
Being deferred differs from being waitlisted because your application was deemed strong, but the school typically needs more time to evaluate your candidacy.
A college acceptance deferred means you’ve decided to push back going to school for typically a year. Deferred college admission means they generally want to take a gap year.
Many students take gap years to gain new experiences, travel the world and gain a better global understanding, work full-time or secure an internship related to their field of interest, and more.
If you apply through early action or early decision, there’s no concrete way to avoid getting deferred. The sample of schools above shows a 50% to 80% chance of deferral for all early decision applicants.
The only thing you can do to avoid being deferred at your dream college is craft a perfect application. If you want to give yourself even more of a competitive edge over other applicants, consider seeking an admissions consultant’s help.
Before you write a LOCI, you may want to visit the school’s campus if you can afford to do so and have time. It could be a great experience to outline in your LOCI that concretely shows your interest in attending the school.
The answer depends on the school, but you shouldn’t call or email the college asking why you were deferred. The school may not be able to give you an answer in the first place, depending on who viewed your application.
Generally, your chances of getting in after getting deferred are on the lower end, especially if you’ve applied to one of the nation’s top colleges. Early decision applicants typically produce strong applications, so at least you know you’ve given it your best shot. However, know that you always have a chance, even after deferral.
Getting rejected after deferral means you should evaluate your other options. It’s in your best interest to accept the offer that works best for you if you get accepted at other schools through regular decision.
Getting deferred isn’t bad, but it’s probably not the result you were hoping for. However, there is a clear better outcome between your application getting deferred vs. a rejected college application. Remember, getting deferred doesn’t mean your application wasn’t good enough!
Deferred college admission by your first-choice college may not be what you’d hoped for, but it doesn’t mean your dreams are dashed quite yet. Understand that many applicants are deferred each cycle and that you’re not alone.
Now that you know what it means to get deferred from college, you can take actionable next steps. If the school permits it, share any updates and improvements to your candidacy. With effort and communication, you can show admissions committees why you’re a stellar applicant who deserves a seat in their programs.