4 Things to Know About Deferrals

It has been a few months since most Early admission outcomes were announced, and while many of you have received definitive decisions, some of you may feel “in limbo” after being deferred from your Early choice(s). For those who have done the research, you know that universities have varying philosophies around who they defer and how many candidates they defer during the Early cycle. Certain schools—such as Harvard and Princeton—defer a large portion of Early applicants each year, while others—like Stanford—typically defer less than 10% of applicants to avoid a drawn out process for anxious students and families. Receiving a deferral notice can certainly be disappointing, but here are a few across-the-board truths to keep in mind (read: don’t lose all hope!) as you await your final decisions in late March:

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1. Your admission officer was impressed with your application.

Being deferred means your admission officer advocated on your behalf to the admission committee and led a thorough discussion on what they found to be most remarkable about your application. However, there may have been some hesitations among committee members that caused a “split vote” or an outright defer vote on your admission decision—meaning, while your academic and extracurricular impact was notable, the committee has decided to wait for more information in the Regular round before making a final decision (e.g., mid-senior-year grades, significant exams or awards awaiting final results, missing materials in your application, and/or more context provided by reviewing Regular Decision applications from other students at your school).

2. Post-deferral updates you submit can make a difference.

After receiving your deferral notice, universities will typically give you an opportunity to provide updates to your Early application through your applicant status portal. We strongly recommend submitting an update, not only because any new awards, impact, or recognition received can strengthen your overall candidacy, but also because it reaffirms your interest in the university and (if true) your intent to enroll if admitted. While you cannot make changes to an already-submitted Early application, these updates will be reviewed together with it in the Regular round, so be thoughtful about what you include and how you describe noteworthy developments that may have occurred since submitting your application on November 1.

3. Your application will be re-reviewed in full during Regular Decision.

Some students worry that if they weren’t admitted from a smaller pool of applicants in Early, then there’s “no chance” they’ll be admitted in Regular with so many more candidates. You’ll know from previous blogs we’ve written that the Early pool is typically comprised of the strongest candidates applying to any university that year, and if indeed you were strong enough to be deferred in the Early round, you’re certainly a very strong applicant in Regular as well. That is to say—stay positive, carefully craft and upload the aforementioned update, and trust that your admission officer will be looking for reasons to admit you with new evidence to share with the committee.

4. You’re still in the running.

With the exception of Georgetown, universities will not defer you if they believe you have zero chance of being admitted in the Regular round. If your counselor, research mentor, professor contacts, an ‘influential alum,’ or anyone else who knows you well offers to write a letter of advocacy on your behalf (without repeating anything already included in your original application), speak with your college advisor about which universities are open to receiving these and what could be most valuable to include in the letter to strengthen your candidacy further.

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We understand it can be frustrating to wait to learn where you may land, but unfortunately it’s difficult to calculate an individual’s chances of being admitted after a deferral, as it’ll depend on a variety of factors even the committee may not be able to predict, including the strength of the applicant pool in the Regular round and institutional priorities considered when admitting a well-rounded class. Universities understand the anxiety this uncertainty may cause, which is why so few of them (such as MIT) will explicitly state admit rates for deferred candidates. Nonetheless, in general, defer-to-admit rates will be very similar to the Regular Decision admit rates for a university in any given year, which admittedly can be quite low for some of the most competitive schools. However, we encourage you to see your deferral as an opportunity to explore other wonderful college options in Regular Decision and/or Early Decision II. Remember that you’ve submitted a broad slate of other applications to incredible universities, ultimately increasing your chances of being admitted to an awesome institution you’ll love.