The first thing my high school senior does every day when she gets home from school is run to the mailbox. Why? Because it’s admissions season, and for those students who applied Early Action or Early Decision, it’s time to expect envelopes in the mail. We’ve all heard the rumors; “fat” envelopes are the good ones, and “skinny” envelopes are bad news. But what happens when the skinny envelope doesn’t have bad news? It’s probably the “D” word . . . Deferral. What exactly is a deferral? Well, according to the American Heritage Dictionary it means “to put off.” And that about sums it up in the world of college admissions too; you’ve been “put off” until the regular decision pool and now won’t hear until sometime in March.
To be deferred in the Early Action pool, means that the school to which you’ve applied decided they weren’t ready to make a decision on your application. They don’t disclose they “whys” of this decision, they just inform you of it. So, for some students it’s often worse than a flat out rejection because it puts you in a holding pattern. And at The College Advisor of New York, we’ve been fielding phone calls and emails for about two weeks from anxious parents and students because this admissions season saw the highest deferral rate in history. Why? The reasons are varied, but the simple answer is that schools are seeing record numbers of applications – and unless they increase the number of students they accept, there are only so many spots to go around. So, they defer you to their regular admissions pool and see who else you are up against when that round of applications rolls in.
The bigger question becomes what to do. Can you increase your chances in the bigger “regular” admissions group? The answer is a resounding YES. As we tell all our families, never forget that colleges and universities are businesses. Often, when we remind people of this simple (but overlooked) fact we get a confused stare. But it’s true. Schools have to make money too and they are much more likely to accept a student who demonstrates interest in them. This is something that we tell every student we work with…get out there and demonstrate your interest! Did you fall in love with “X” university? Well, tell them, and explain why! “Like” them on Facebook, “Follow” them on Twitter – schools track your interest and they are much more likely to accept a student who is a good candidate for accepting their offer admission. If you were deferred from your top choice, there are many ways to better your game. Contact the admissions office and let them know they are your TOP choice. Are your first and second quarter grades good (or maybe great)? Submit them! Did you or your athletic team win an award the school doesn’t know about? If so, please inform the admissions representative. And there is no substitute for what I like to call “boots on the ground.” Often students haven’t been able to make that last visit to even a top choice school. Now is the time to go visit. Schools track this too and it matters to them that you’ve made the time to tour. If that isn’t possible, contact your local admissions representative and request an interview. There are many ways to show interest; use any and all that you can.
Students often think that once they’ve hit the submit button on their applications, their job is done. Maybe twenty years ago that was the case, but times have changed. After showing your interest, remember to keep applying. We urge all of our students to toss their hat into the Early Action ring because the rate of acceptance, is often but not always, higher. But now, more than ever, college applications are becoming a roll of the dice (even for the top applicants). However, there are ways to increase your chances and as college admissions counselors, we know how to help you do so. If you have deferral letters sitting in front of you, submit the regular decision applications that you put on the back burner and work hard to make them spectacular.
As the old saying goes “flattery will get you everywhere.” In the case of a deferral, it’s the name if the game. Tell the school that deferred you that you’re VERY interested and still have your nose to the grindstone and it just may get you an acceptance. Follow our advice and that thin letter just may turn into the fat envelope in March. Good luck!