What to Do if You're Deferred

This past week, several of the universities and colleges around the country have released their acceptance rates for their early decision applications. This year, many of the most competitive schools reported a rise in early decision application count, and some experienced record highs, including Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Stanford. Although some schools accepted between 40 and 50 percent of their incoming freshman class from the early decision pool, due to the sheer number of applicants, the Class of 2018 was one of the most competitive to date. In comparing the percentage of acceptances from Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and Yale, the average rate is slightly higher than 21 percent for the Class of 2018. These statistics have left a high number of deferred students and their parents asking themselves: What's next?

Colleges defer early decision and action students for a wide range of reasons. It may be a weak grade or test score, or the application may have been strong overall, but not distinctive enough to gain a unanimous vote in the admissions committee. 

Regardless of the reason, there are a few things that you can do to help improve your chances for acceptance:

1. Place a call to the admissions office. Politely ask for an appointment to speak with your regional admissions officer to find out how to improve your chances, and to establish a connection with the admissions officer who will most likely be reading your file again. Resist the temptation to have your parents call, and speak with the officer yourself. This step will help the admissions officer to see you as a real person, not just another application. During the call, be polite and respectful of the officer's time, remember to ask what percentage of deferred students is usually admitted to the school and reiterate how this school is your first choice.

2. Write an update letter. Include new accomplishments since your last application, and any updates on your academics or extracurricular activities. Include specifics about why this college remains your first choice, and how you will make a difference on campus.

3. Send an additional recommendation. Ask a senior year teacher to write a recommendation stressing your recent academic accomplishments, and your strong desire to attend this particular school.

4. Get support from people other than teachers. This may include recommendation letters from a coach, adviser or boss who can describe your recent leadership abilities, or an alumni from the school.