Getting deferred from college admissions can be confusing, but it is not a reason to give up hope.

In fact, by acting soon, your child can significantly increase their chances of a March/April acceptance. 

Keep reading for our 5 tips on how to turn the deferral decision from a “maybe to a “yes.”

What is “deferred” in college applications?

Students who are not accepted but also not outright denied during the Early Action or Early Decision round are considered “deferred.” 

The school hasn’t given the decision of a hard “no,” so that is a silver lining because your child still has a chance to get accepted.

Your child’s application will now be considered with the school’s regular decision applications. 

Why was my child’s college application deferred?

Perhaps the admissions committee wants to see grades from the fall semester.

They may want to see how your child compares to students in the regular decision applicant pool.

No matter the reason for your child’s application being deferred, there’s still an opportunity for your teen to improve their chances of admission in the regular round.

But first, remind your child: Where they go to school does not determine their value or success!

Deferral Statistics

Because every school receives a different number of applications and admits a different number of students, deferral numbers vary from school to school. Many schools don’t even make deferral statistics public. 

At highly selective institutions, it’s not unheard of to defer a majority of early applicants, as the early application pool is so competitive and it’s hard to straight out reject many well-qualified applicants.

Some statistics for fall 2021 applications:

  • Brown: Of 6,146 Early Decision applications, Brown accepted 15%, rejected 60%, and deferred 25%.
  • Yale: of the 7,288 students who applied Early Action, 837 were admitted, and 31% were deferred to the regular decision round.
  • Georgetown: 10% of the 8,832 students who applied Early Action were accepted. The rest were automatically deferred to the regular application pool. 15% of deferred applicants gain admission in the regular decision round.
  • Dartmouth: 5 to 10 percent of candidates deferred in Early Decision are typically admitted.

What to do next: 5 tips on how to turn that “maybe” into a “yes.”

There are a couple of things your child can do to increase the chances of turning the deferral into a “yes.”

But first, please note that students must determine what the college requires, what’s appropriate and not appropriate, and abide by those instructions.

For example, if a college explicitly instructs deferred students not to submit additional test scores or letters of recommendation, then please do not send anything or they’ll risk ruining their chances in the Regular Round.

Here’s what your child can do:

1. First, find out what the college needs.

Contact admissions and try to find out the reason for being deferred. And what additional information is required.

Again, only do this if the school allows students to call.

2. Email the college admissions counselor.

The email should do the following things:

  • Reiterate continued interest in the school despite the deferral and reasons for being an excellent t fit.
  • Updates on any new achievements, paying particular attention to anything that has happened/changed/developed since the initial application.
  • If (and only if!) this is the case, tell the school that it’s their number one choice and that they will definitely attend if accepted.

3. Send additional grades and test scores.

Only do this if the college asks for them. 

Most colleges will ask for this and your child’s College Guidance Office sends these over. However, sometimes your child will have to request for this to be done, so always double-check as soon as possible so that the college(s) will have an updated transcript by mid/late February.

Grades will be the primary factor in possibly turning a deferral into an acceptance. In some cases, the college may ask your child to self-report the semester grades.

If your child has any updated standardized test scores that have not been shared with the college, then send these over right away.

4. Submit additional letters of recommendation (if permitted).

Look for someone who can provide a different perspective than what was already submitted. 

Overwhelming the admissions office with extra stuff (for example, CDs, DVDs, or artwork—unless a music/art applicant) isn’t usually a good idea.

5. If this hasn’t been done yet, consider a campus visit and meet directly with admissions staff to show a continued interest. 

If an in-person visit is not possible, try doing a virtual tour and email the admissions officer with thoughtful questions. Also, continue to read and open all emails from the school.

Think of these efforts as the closing argument of a court case—a final but abbreviated chance to convince an admissions office that your child is a good match for the school.  

Keep in mind that the tone of these communications should be sincere and upbeat.

Meanwhile – revisit your college list and continue to apply to regular decision colleges.


If you’d like additional support for you and your teen, feel free to reach out and book a discovery call or email us with any questions.