What Is a College Deferral?

college deferral

What Is a College Deferral?

college deferral

No one likes to be kept waiting, especially if you’re waiting to hear from a college.

At  the point when you finally DO hear, and the word is “deferred,” well, that really sucks!

Unfortunately, even for many of the most talented students, the news from admissions officers may be one of deferral.

What exactly is a college deferral and what is the best way to manage one?

What Is a College Deferral?

The admissions committee’s mandate is to put together a talented group of motivated and highly diverse young people who will contribute to campus life and ultimately be successful graduates.

When deciding upon early applicants who have applied early decision or early action, the admissions committee has yet to see the larger, regular decision, applicant pool.

Aside from a number of stand-out applicants who do receive early admission, a number of suitable candidates may be deferred so that the admissions committee can consider them in light of the total applicant pool.

When a student is deferred, he or she will receive an “admit” or “deny” decision at the same time as regular decision applicants.

A deferral means that your child is still in consideration, but the college wants to weigh their application against the regular decision application field rather than just early applicants. They may also want to consider your child’s academic performance in the last semester of the school year.

Is it Better to Be Waitlisted or Deferred?

Being waitlisted and deferred are not the same outcome but they share similarities. 

Similar to a college waitlist, a deferral is not a rejection, but an invitation to be considered again, during the regular decision period.

In most cases, when a student receives a notification of being deferred, it means the college has decided to push back making a final decision on a student’s application and they would like to review it again during the regular admission time frame.

If the student is deferred and then accepted during regular decision, they do not have an obligation to attend as they would have if they had been accepted during early decision.  

Being waitlisted is different from being deferred in that the college has finished reviewing the student’s application and has made a decision to put the student on a waitlist for admission. 

The admissions committee may or may not admit students from the waitlist. And unlike a deferral situation, new information does not usually change a waitlist decision.

How Do You Turn a Deferral Into Acceptance?

If your student is deferred, they can ask the college if additional information will be accepted and reviewed as part of the regular decision process. Each school is different so pay close attention to any official correspondence you receive, and what to do next.

If your student plans on sending additional information, they should consider highlighting any new academic or extracurricular achievements, submit an additional letter of recommendation, and 1st quarter grades. In whatever they write, they should make sure to clearly articulate what makes the school so special and how they will contribute to the school community.

Your child should also:

  • Keep the admissions committee informed of any new accomplishments, including a higher SAT or ACT score.
  • Send a letter of recommendation.
  • Try to arrange an interview on campus or virtually. Be sure to practice first. 
  • Attend an information session and ask questions. It shows interest!
  • Craft a strong deferral letter. Some schools require them. A great deferral letter will reaffirm interest in the school. It’s Important for your child to express if the college is still their first choice, and that they want to remain in consideration.
  • Explain in their letter why they are a perfect fit. This is their chance to put into words why they’re interested in the school, what they’ve done to warrant consideration, and what they can bring to the table if they’re accepted.
  • Include any information on their application that was left off of their early decision or early action application, such as a new letter of recommendation or resume.
  • Detail any noteworthy achievements since their first application.

Paying it Forward: Advice From Our Community

A member of our Paying For College 101 group is also a college admissions officer and offered this helpful advice about what to do after receiving a deferral letter:

“If there is a question about an application decision, the student should be the one to call about it. There are a variety of reasons so I’ll just list a few: privacy laws; it’s their future so they should take ownership; they deserve to hear answers first hand not second hand filtered by a parent or counselor; students need to learn to advocate for themselves; parents have to begin backing off from doing important things for their soon to be of legal age children. Not always easy to do and yes I’ve been there done that, so I can speak from both personal and professional experience.”

When All Is Said and Done

A college deferral is not a rejection, but provides a student with the opportunity to continue pursuing their dream school while also pursuing other schools. It’s a sign to keep going…and to keep up the good work.






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