Dec 14, 2009

What To Do If Your Early Application Is Deferred

Many students who applied either Early Action or Early Decision this year are finding they have been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred to the regular admissions pool. If you’re in this position, know you’re not alone. Because a surprising number of colleges and universities experienced an uptick early applications, it stands to reason that unless acceptances increase, you have lots of company—mostly disappointed.

Keep this in mind: just because you’ve been deferred doesn’t mean you’ll never get in. Consider it a kind of holding pattern. Colleges are sending a signal that they need to know a little more about you before making a final decision. You can either respond or withdraw into a tiny shell of self-pity. I recommend responding. And here’s how:

1. Don’t crash. There’s no question this is a setback. It’s normal to feel disappointment, but don’t let it be crippling. This is not the time to slack off or otherwise jeopardize your GPA and class standing. Most importantly, don’t let this minor bump in the road delay completion of the rest of your applications. Finish those essays and try to submit your applications a couple of weeks in advance of their due dates.

2. Contact Admissions. Try calling the admissions representative for your area. He or she most likely read and is familiar with your application. Remember that it’s an incredibly busy time of year for admissions, but if you’re lucky you might be able to get more personal feedback and a sense of how your application stacked up against the rest of the early application pool. You might also get some ideas on how to improve your candidacy by clarifying misunderstandings or by submitting additional test results, information, or recommendations. Do not give in to the temptation to complain or badger the staff.

3. Update your application. Although colleges generally require mid-year grades sent by your high school, take the initiative to forward a copy of your most recent report card with a cover letter addressed to the Dean of Admissions and copied to your area representative. In the cover letter, restate your commitment to attend if admitted—only if that’s truly the case. Include reference to any new and improved standardized test scores, any new leadership positions in a group or team, new membership in an organization, any specific events or community service activities in which you have been involved, and any special awards you have received. If appropriate, send supplementary materials such as an additional writing sample or essay. Remember that colleges are looking for an upward trend in grades and really only want to know what’s happened since you submitted your original application.

4. Consider a campus visit. If you haven’t already spoken with the area representative, try to make an appointment to meet some time in January or February. This can be an opportunity to make your case for admission face-to-face. If the rep is not available, don’t be discouraged—it’s peak reading season and time is limited. Instead, visit a class, have lunch, and take a closer look at the campus. You may find subtle changes in your feelings about the school that open you to other possibilities.

5. Send another recommendation. If permitted, make arrangements to have another recommendation sent on your behalf. Look for someone who can speak to qualities other than those represented in recommendations the college already has received. Consider asking a coach, your employer, a faculty sponsor for one of your membership organizations, or someone in the community. Do not flood the admissions office with hundreds of additional recommendations. This won’t help.

6. Consider retesting. If test scores appear to be a barrier to admission, consider retaking either the SAT (January) or the ACT (February). Who knows? Your scores may improve significantly enough to make a difference in your admissions prospects.

7. Follow-up on your mid-year report. Colleges generally require a report to be submitted once mid-year grades become available. Follow up with your counselor to make sure they are sent promptly. Provide your counselor with the most up-to-date information on any additional accomplishments that may be relevant to your application and ask for them to be included in the report. If the college remains your first choice, ask your counselor to make this point somewhere on the form or possibly in a cover letter.

8. Move on. Consider your deferral an opportunity to explore other options. It’s hard not to be miserable over a less-than-positive response to all the hard work you’ve put into being the best possible candidate for admission. But once you have done everything possible to persuade the college to admit, turn your attention elsewhere and don’t dwell on the negative. Remain confident in your prospects. Even with this small detour, you can have lots of great choices and you will ultimately find THE college for you.

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