I've Been Deferred - What Now?

Getting deferred from your top choice school can be disappointing, but it's certainly NOT the end of the world... especially if you're being deferred during the early action / early decision stage of the application process!
There are a number of steps that any student can take to help improve their chances during the regular decision round, and we're here to ensure that you have the right direction to take them.

When applying to a college or university during the early application round (October - December of the year BEFORE you attend college), there are 3 solid  responses you can get: 

1. Accepted - straight forward
2. Denied - straight forward
3. Deferred - not so straight forward

Receiving a response of deferral simply means that the college wants to hold onto your application for consideration with the rest of the school's regular decision applications. This may be for a number of reasons. But what we are sure about is that being deferred is an indication that your application was competitive and the admissions committee is not ready to tell you no. 

As much as it may be unsatisfying (in comparison to an acceptance letter), there is a bright side to a deferral in that you'll have the opportunity to send additional information to strengthen your application in the regular round! 


We cannot stress enough that college applications are subjective. It is a 100% human experience, given that admissions committees are made up of human beings who spend hours manually reading through each individual application. There is no computer considering check boxes to decide your collegiate fate. So keep that in mind when processing your feelings of receiving a deferral letter. 

With that said, there are a myriad of reasons why a student would be deferred in the early application round.

It may be that admissions officers love your personality and your SAT / ACT score, but your GPA is not in the best shape and they want to see your Fall semester grades before making a decision. 

It may be that you did not fall among the top picks of the early round, but you definitely weren't an applicant to count out, and they want to see how you measure up against the rest of the college's applicant pool.

It may be that the school is trying to meet their institutional needs (concerning diversity, legacy admissions and other quotas), and you don't fit the profile of the seats that need to be filled specifically during the early application round. 

It may be that your parents finances may not be strong enough to pay for your cost of attendance, and so they want to see if their financial situation will improve in a couple of months before evaluating their financial aid allowance (especially for NEED AWARE schools). 

This list is not exhaustive, and the reason for your deferral could be just about anything. But no matter the reason, you are being presented with the opportunity to improve your chances of admission in the regular round.


As much as it may be unsatisfying (in comparison to an acceptance letter), there is a bright side to a deferral in that you'll have the opportunity to send additional information to strengthen your application in the regular round! 

Here are our top tips for the next steps forward after receiving a deferral:

If this school was a top choice, you should now go back to the drawing board and determine if it still is your #1 dream school. A deferral has been known to evoke a lot of emotions, and has the ability to change how you view that school. 

Take the time to consider whether or not this is still your #1 choice, or if you'd prefer to focus your energy on applying to other schools during the regular application period. 

A deferral typically means that the school wants to see some more from you. Some may request specific information, like an updated transcript or test scores. Others might encourage students to submit additional application material like recommendation letters, extracurricular activity updates, or a formal deferral response letter. 

If a college explicitly states that deferred students shout NOT submit additional material, DO NOT SUBMIT ANYTHING ELSE. 

Not following directions is a sure fire way of ruining your chances of admission, so ensure that you are very clear on what is required on proceeding with your deferral decision. 

Write a one-page letter to be shared by email (followed by a physical copy in the post) addressed to the admissions representative at the college who evaluates applicants from your specific high school or region. It is also recommended that you copy the Dean of Admissions on your email as well. 

Your letter should:

  • Show genuine commitment to your top choice school, including your intention to enrol should you be admitted in the regular decision round. If this school is not your #1 pick, still include that the college remains a top choice for you.
  • Reiterate why this college best fits your academic and personal needs. Use the opportunity to name drop professors, courses, extracurricular activities, and opportunities that show that you have done your research. Do this without sounding repetitive - remember that they still have your original application!
  • Update the college on any achievements that you have made since hitting the submit button on your early round application. You may include achievements from both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Not show signs of disappointment or frustration. 
  • Not sound like a desperate plea for a spot.

You may seek one additional letter of recommendation to send to the college preferably from a teacher who just taught you this past semester, or an outside recommender like a coach or summer job / internship employer. This is especially necessary if something in your life has changed since you submitted your early round application that merits explanation.

Read through your original application again, even after you've been deferred. If possible, have a professional college counsellor review it for you as well (especially if you applied without a dedicated college prep advisor to begin with). During this process, you or the college counsellor may find gaps or errors in your original application that can be corrected or rewritten for future applications to other schools, like resumes or essays. 

Click HERE if you'd like AIM to review your college application for you!

If you have not yet visited your top choice college, and are in a position to do so, take the opportunity to visit the campus BEFORE March 1. A campus visit / tour is a great way of showing DEMONSTRATED INTEREST

During your campus visit, try to do the following:

  • Meet face-to-face with your admissions representative
    (if you are an international student, attend a college fair / info session in your home country where that school will be attending and introduce yourself personally - mention that you applied, have been deferred but are still interested in attending your top choice school).
  • If possible, sit in on classes and have the opportunity to meet with a professor or two.
  • Have lunch in the campus dining center to meet and speak with current students.

Make sure that this school receives a MID-YEAR REPORT INCLUSIVE OF FALL SEMESTER GRADES before March 1 of the year you intend to attend college. If you're choosing to submit updated standardized testing scores, an official score report from the SAT / ACT must be sent to show new test scores since submitting your original application. 

Putting all of your eggs in one basket if NEVER our recommendation here at AIM - especially if you need financial aid to attend of your application is not the strongest academically. Don't neglect regular decision applications for the sake of improving your admission chances at the college that you've been deferred.

Take time to address the deferral, but don't dedicate all of your time to it. Ensure that you're still taking steps to complete your other applications by their regular decision deadlines.

The reality is that despite not being denied in the early round, you may still not be admitted after the regular decision round. It is hard to predict the nuances of the regular decision application pool for any given year, and that will always determine your final outcome. 

Don't give up hope! There's still plenty that you can do after being deferred... including applying to some more schools during the regular decision round. Good luck!
If you need help reviewing your applications for the regular decision round, our AIM expert college counsellors cannot wait to help you!
Author: AIM Online Academy
AIM Online Academy (was AIM Educational Services) is the leading college prep provider in Jamaica, that helps students maximize their potential as they make the journey towards college in the US, UK and Canada. For over a decade, AIM's team of College Experts & Essay Coaches have assisted students from all over the Caribbean, the USA and Canada get into the college of their dreams with enough scholarship and financial aid to actually attend.

You can find out more about how AIM Online Academy can help YOU here: http://www.aimonlineacademy.com

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