What to Do If Your Student Receives a Deferral Admission Letter

Students who apply to college for Early Action or Early Decision often find the early part of December an understandably stressful time.  They hope to learn about their admission status before the holidays and be able to relax for the second half of their senior year.  Students who applied for Early Decision know that their decision will be a binding one.  Early Action students will have until May to make a final choice.

Although your Early Action or Early Decision applicant obviously hopes for a positive response from their chosen college, if they receive a denial they will know that they need to move on to other choices for the spring regular admissions pool.  However, if your student receives a letter of deferred admission, they enter a state of limbo – their answer is not clear cut and is neither an acceptance nor a rejection.  It is an uncomfortable place to be.

Students who receive deferred admission may be a good match for the college, but the college may want to see how they compare to the regular admission pool of candidates.   This can be a good thing as this is not a rejection or denial.  It may be important that you help your student understand that this is a delay or a detour, but that they may still be on the road to admission.  A denial letter, on the other hand, would mean that your student cannot be reconsidered with the pool of regular admission candidates.

If your student receives a deferral, they do not need to reapply to the college.  Their application will be considered along with the regular pool.  Although, technically, your student does not need to do anything at this point, there are a few things that they may want to consider.

  • Your student should send a letter to the Admissions Office letting them know that they are still interested in the school.  The letter does not need to be long, and it should be polite and reasonable.  Your student might express some disappointment, but should move quickly to say that they are still excited about being considered for regular admission and look forward to the possibility of attending the school.  Your student should find out who the regional representative for your area is and send the letter directly to them.
  • If there are any updates since your student’s application was submitted, now is a good time to send them.  Your student might consider updated SAT scores, midyear grades, information about a new job or leadership position or honor or awards.  Be careful not to overwhelm the Admissions Office, but do keep them in the loop with new, helpful information.
  • If your student did not previously have an Admissions interview, they might request one now.  An opportunity to personally chat with someone from Admissions might be helpful.
  • Your student should talk to their high school guidance counselor about suggestions for next steps.
  • Now is a good time for your student to think carefully about how important this school is to them.  They can put some effort into contacting the school, sending materials, requesting an interview, visiting campus, or they may decide to move on to other schools where chances of admission might be better.
  • If your student has not already done so, now is the time to move ahead with other applications to other schools.  It is time to consider back-up schools and to complete applications and/or campus visits.

A letter of deferred admission places your student in a difficult position.  They are not in and not out.  They may need extra support from you and may need your help to gain some perspective.  If this school is important, your student will want to wait for word in the spring, however, they may also need your help to be realistic in their expectations and to move ahead with alternate plans. Your student may appreciate your help in processing their thoughts and feelings, or may need some time to work through their thoughts on their own.  Give your student space, but keep them on track around the detour and moving forward.

Related Posts:

College Acceptance – Or Rejection – Letters:  Ten Ways Parents Can Help Students Cope

Can a College Revoke My Student’s Admission?

Parents Can Help High School – and College – Students Deal With Disappointment

Should My Student Consider a Gap Year Before Starting College?

Deferred? Waitlisted? Help Your Student Take Action.


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