What is a College Deferral Letter?

Instructor: Jessica Keys
The college admissions process doesn't always result in a yes or no decision; in some cases, your application may be deferred by the institution. Read on to find out what a letter of deferral means and how it differs from being placed on a waitlist.

College Deferral Letters: Hanging in a Balance

If your college application results in a deferral letter, it means that you have not yet been accepted by that institution. However, you haven't been rejected either, so don't run away to join the circus just yet! Deferrals are a common outcome among early-decision applicants. In this case, your application will simply be reconsidered during the regular admissions period, at which point the admissions board will make their final decision.

Why a deferral? The reasons for deferral will differ from case to case. Perhaps your college received many strong applications and can only consider so many for an early decision. Or, the admissions board simply wants to wait until they can see additional grades or test scores from you.

Deferral Versus Waitlisting

Waitlisting usually differs from deferral in that prospective students who are placed on a waitlist have reached the end of the admissions process and are likely not going to be reconsidered at a later date. Instead, the college has already decided that the student could be admitted, but only if some of its accepted students decide not to enroll. These vacancies may or may not materialize, so a student on a waitlist may want to think about other options.

What Happens Next?

First, make sure that you fully understand the institution's decision on your application. Have you been deferred or waitlisted? If you are still unsure about the decision or if the wording in the letter seems vague and unhelpful, pay a visit to your guidance counselor.

If you have been deferred, your counselor can also help you figure out the steps you should take to improve the shape of your application when it's reconsidered later on. This information might be included in the deferral letter. Your counselor can also call the admissions office to shed more light onto the college's decision. These steps may include things like:

Boosting Your Academic Record

Counselors will submit your grades to the schools you've applied to halfway through your senior year. This is your chance to redeem yourself if you haven't performed as well as you would've liked in previous semesters and show admissions officials you have what it takes to excel academically. You might consider challenging yourself with honors or AP courses or taking a recommended class (for example, taking an advanced math class if you're interested in a school's computer science program).

To get some extra study help, consider these High School Courses covering core subjects, like math, science and language arts, as well as any electives you might take. You can also find study guides to help you ace your AP courses.

Retaking Exams

If your SAT or ACT score was the weak spot in your application, your counselor might suggest retaking one of these standardized tests in an attempt to earn a higher score. Before you sit for the exam again, check out Study.com's comprehensive SAT Study Guide covering all sections of the new SAT test in a self-paced online format. Try the entire course, or simply go for the sections that could use the most improvement. It's up to you! Study.com has an ACT Study Guide as well.

Getting (More) Recommendations

Your counselor might suggest submitting additional recommendation letters from teachers who can attest to your recent academic improvements as well as any other individuals who have positive things to say about your employment or the work you've done in extracurricular clubs or activities. Keep in mind that these letters should supplement the information you've already submitted.

Writing a Follow-Up Letter

When it gets closer to the time your application will be considered again (your counselor can help you figure out when this will be), you may also send a follow-up letter to the institution, reminding them of your interest while noting any new accomplishments or marked improvements. Since the admissions office will be very busy during this period, it's best to write only once and to include only the things that are the most relevant to your application. Keep the tone professional (but don't be afraid to add a personal touch) and in line with the rest of your application materials.

Weighing Your Options

Above all, try to view your prospects with an objective eye. Competition for college admission is fiercer than ever nowadays, with many outstanding students applying for few spots. Deferral can be a disappointing result after a long and frustrating process, but it should not be taken personally. Stay positive, and while waiting for a deferral decision on your 'dream college', keep an open mind about your other choices.

Take a look at Study.com's helpful online guides for Finding Colleges and Evaluating Colleges to revisit criteria for considering other schools based on their financial fit and what's most important to you.

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