Deferred from early admissions colleges? What to do next


The college application process can be emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing for both parents and students. Whether college applicants worked incredibly hard since their freshman year of high school or only began taking their academics seriously in their junior year, they all have one thing in common: a dream school. And if they were given the right advice, they applied to that school early. In mid-December, students all over the world learn whether they were accepted, deferred or rejected from the schools they applied to early decision or early action.

If students received a deferral or a rejection, it is completely normal to feel disappointed. However, it is important to understand that a deferral does not equate to a rejection. While deferrals are not ideal, there are several reasons why receiving them may be more common this year compared to previous years. 

Each year, a record-breaking number of students apply to top schools like Harvard, NYU and Duke, and with the pandemic having impacted access to standardized testing and extracurricular activities, this past college application cycle was unlike any other.

For the most part, Command Education predicts that the number of applications will continue to rise at most competitive schools. In addition, students who were accepted last cycle but decided to take a gap year due to the pandemic will be returning to campus this upcoming academic year. This will significantly impact the number of available seats that colleges can offer to current applicants, making this year one of the most competitive in top-tier college admissions. 

Stefano Giovannini

Here’s how students can maximize their chances of acceptance after being deferred:

Write a letter of continued interest

Letters of continued interest are short and succinct, typically no more than one page, and are meant to share with the admissions office any updates to a student’s application and reiterate the value they would add to the campus community. 

Students should plan to send letters of continued interest to the admissions office of their top schools sooner rather than later. Students who do not send these letters are essentially indicating to schools that they are not committed or interested in continuing the application process with them.

Revisit college lists to select the best-fit schools

Students tend to apply to their top reach schools early, so once they hear back from their early schools, it is imperative that they revisit their school list to make sure it is truly balanced with a mix of safety, match, and reach schools. 

As students re-evaluate their lists, they should make note of how schools have shifted their standardized testing policies due to the pandemic. Regardless of many schools going test-optional or even test-blind like the University of California schools, Command Education recommends that students continue to send their test scores, if they have them. If students have not taken any recent tests, they should re-evaluate their college list to determine if sending in their application without any test scores would still position them for acceptance.

Continue writing and revising essays

The strongest supplemental essays show colleges that the applicant has done their research into the school and programs of their choice. As students finish up and review their applications, they should evaluate what they can do differently in their activities list or essays. They should try to quantify their accomplishments whenever possible and show, rather than tell, their achievements. Continuous editing and revision will also highlight any spelling or grammatical errors that weren’t caught the first time. 

With the exception of writing a letter of continued interest, students who were rejected from a top school during the early round should follow all of the above steps. Rejected applicants have the benefit of hindsight; they should read through their Common Application and supplemental essays for the early action/decision round and evaluate how they can recraft the rest of their applications to highlight different strengths.

Students should also keep track of regular decision deadlines as well as Early Decision II dates. The most important dates to note are typically January 1, January 5 and January 15.  Taking the steps outlined here will allow students and parents to be best set up for success on the rest of their journeys. Command Education‘s expert college admissions consultants and mentors are available to guide students through this process and give them the best shot at acceptance to their dream schools. For more information, please visit