What Does Deferred Mean for College?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Stressed college student looking at the laptop screen while surrounded by books.

What Does Deferred Mean for College?

If you have already applied to your dream colleges and universities, you may have received some letters from one or more schools letting you know that you have been deferred.

The word deferred can be a bit scary to read – especially if you received a deferral letter from your dream school – but what does deferred mean for college?

When applying to top schools it is really important to know all of the different outcomes that you can confront. Of course, getting accepted to a top school, like an Ivy League university or another top-10 school elsewhere in the country, is the ideal situation. However, that simply does not happen for everyone.

And that is okay! What matters most is that you have answers to important questions like: What is a deferred college admission? Or is it better to be deferred or waitlisted?

At AdmissionSight, we know that one of the most important tools that any student can utilize is knowledge. That is why we have taken the time to break down everything you need to know about what deferred means for college.

Let’s get started!

What does it mean to be deferred from a college?

The best way to answer this question is as upfront as we possibly can. So that is exactly what we are going to do! Simply put, a deferral offers students a second chance at admissions.

Instead of admissions officers at a school like Harvard or Yale flat out rejecting a high school student that applied via Early Action or Early Decision that could be a great addition to the school, the officers move that application from the early admissions pile over the pool of regular applicants.

Two college students are walking in campus and talking.

So, if you apply to a school via an early admission option like Early Action or Early Decision, getting a deferral letter or notice does not mean that you have been rejected.

Instead, it means that your application will be considered once again as if it had never been part of the early admissions pool.

You may think that getting deferred is just all-around bad news. But that isn’t necessarily true! For a lot of students that apply via early admission, getting a deferral letter can be a strong sign because it means that the school already considers you a strong student and an option for admission.

On top of that, the pool of applications in the regular decision admissions pool is typically quite a bit weaker than that of early admissions pools.

One of the most important things that students need to know in the event that they are deferred is that their grades during their senior year become even more important.

Of course, admissions officers will look at the grades of high school applicants from their senior year – and the majority of schools actually ask for mid-year reports just to make sure that students are remaining committed to their studies.

But when a student is deferred after applying to a school via early admission, those senior year grades could very well become the deciding factor of whether or not that student ends up getting a letter of acceptance or rejection.

FAQs on early admissions rules and getting deferred

Now that you know the answer to the question “What does deferred mean for college?”, chances are pretty good that you have a lot of other questions as well.

In fact, now that you know that admissions deferrals are directly related to applying to schools via early admissions options, you may have some pressing questions about early admissions rules themselves.

So let’s get into it.

What are early admissions?

In case you do not already know, early admission is an option that many schools offer students who are already well aware of which schools are at the top of their lists.

One of the most important things that students need to know about the two most common early admissions options – Early Decision and Early Action – is that applications for these admissions options are due much earlier than regular admissions are.

In fact, early admissions applications are typically due in November. That means that the entire application, as well as all the related and required documents, need to be at the school admissions office by that time. For reference, regular admissions applications are typically due in January.

A male college student taking out a book from the bookshelf.

One final really important thing to know about Early Decision applications is that they are actually binding.

What this means for students that plan to apply via Early Decision is that if they get into a school as an Early Decision admit, they will be required to withdraw their applications to other schools and enroll at the school that they applied to via Early Decision.

For this reason, it is crucial that students only apply to schools via Early Decision if they know for certain that they will want to attend that school in the event that they end up getting in. Students can only apply to one school via binding Early Decision.

On the other hand, Early Action is not binding and students can apply to multiple schools via this option.

Why do colleges defer students who apply via early admissions?

One really important thing that AdmissionSight wants to make clear is that students that are deferred from a school should do everything that they can to not take the decision personally.

There’s no doubt about it, it can hurt if you receive a letter of deferral from the school of your dreams. You have to do everything you can to, instead, take it as a message that you are almost at the finish line and have nearly accomplished your goal!

An unhappy woman, looking away from her laptop is sitting on a couch.

But what are students deferred? The truth is that there are a lot of reasons behind a student getting deferred.

In fact, many times, a deferral is meant to encourage a student simply to provide additional material to get them over the hump, like final semester grades. This may be the case, especially, if a student started off their high school years somewhat slow and did not perform as well as they could have during their freshman year.

Students that are deferred can also take this as a sign that the school wants them to send in recent personal accomplishments, awards, and other accolades that can prove that they are truly the cream of the crop.

It is also important to remember that in many cases, the deferral is less about the student that has been deferred and more about the school itself. For many schools, they consider it a top priority to make sure that they are bringing in a well-rounded and diverse group of students to be a part of their newest graduating class.

Deferring some students gives the admissions officers a chance to get a better sense of what their class is shaping out to be, which in turn helps them make some final decisions on students.

Does deferred mean rejected?

The simple answer to this question is absolutely not! The best answer to the question “What does deferred mean for college?”, is basically that your application is being given another look by admissions officers at a school that you applied to via early admissions.

But what does it mean to be deferred from a college in terms of your chances of ultimately getting accepted into the school of your dreams? Of course, it ranges from school to school and the more selective programs are going to accept fewer students overall.

A frustrated-looking man with his laptop in front of him.

However, given the information that is reported from top programs across the country, it can be presumed that anywhere between five and 15 percent of students that are initially deferred will eventually be accepted into that school.

So, what does it mean to be deferred from a college? It certainly means your chances have diminished, but it does not mean that you don’t have a very real opportunity to get into the school either.

Is it better to be deferred or waitlisted?

Now that you know the answer to the question “What is a deferred college admission?”, you are also probably curious about what the better outcome is for a student applicant between getting deferred from a college or being waitlisted.

So, is it better to be deferred or waitlisted? Here is what you need to know.

Essentially being put on a waitlist means that you are placed on a “holding pattern” as the admissions officers at a given school make the final decisions about the incoming class.

Perhaps the primary difference between being deferred at a school and being waitlisted is that when a student is waitlisted, there is no additional information that they can give to the school. No new information, such as updated grades, accolades, or accomplishments is going to impact the school’s final decision.

A woman with hand under her chin while looking at her laptop.

So, while a deferred student has a very real chance to improve their ability to get into the game by sending additional proof that they have what it takes to succeed at the school, a student that has been waitlisted basically just has to wait and see.

For that reason, it can definitely be determined that being deferred gives applicants more of an advantage than being waitlisted.

What should I do if I get deferred from my dream school?

Getting a notice of deferment from your dream school can be a real gut punch. After years of performing your best in high school, getting involved in extracurriculars that you are passionate about, and crafting a really fantastic application, the possibility that it still might not be enough can be a hard pill to swallow.

But any student that is deferred from their top school options should not wallow in the deferment for too long. The reason why is because you want to be sure that you are quickly getting to work to improve your chances of getting in as an admit during the regular admission cycle.

It is important to know that the process of providing helpful material to boost your cause can be somewhat perplexing.

Some schools may simply ask for an updated GPA and grade report from your senior year. Others may be looking for a student to send additional materials that can add valuable context to a student’s application.

So, if you do get that deferment notice, here are some key things that you should do to start moving towards your eventual acceptance letter!

First off, you’re going to want to determine whether this school is still your top choice. There is no doubt that a deferral can stir up some negative feelings from the student.

For that reason, it is important for any student to take stock and make sure that they still consider that school to be a top choice of theirs.

Getting clarity on how hard you want to fight to get accepted to a school will help streamline and simplify the process going forward. Obviously, if a student is still determined to get in, they will take the following steps. If they are not, the deferment can enable the student to focus more on other school options.

Next, you will want to find what the school wants from you. Most schools will want an updated grade report and students will have to ask for that from their school.

Even if that is all the school wants, however, it is certainly worth it for the student to figure out whether or not the school will accept additional materials that could help further the student’s case to be accepted. If a school makes it clear that it will not accept additional materials, students should absolutely follow that direction.

Then, determine whether or not to write a deferral letter. Even though you have been deferred, the school is still going to want to see that you are determined to get in.

This may take a bit of pride swallowing, as it can be hard to express a strong desire to attend a school that deferred you.

However, that level of maturity can go a long way to impress the admissions officers at a given school. In this letter, students should make sure to reiterate their interest in the school, explain why they think that they are a great fit at the school, and provide any updates on what you have been up to since submitting your application if you think those updates could impress and be helpful to your cause. This is a fantastic tool that students absolutely should take advantage of if they have been deferred.

Finally, send in your regular decision applications to other schools. It might be hard to accept, but a notice of deferment is a clear sign that you may not end up getting into the school that is at the top of your list. It can be a hard thing to accept, but it is important to do so as quickly as possible so that you can shift your focus from that school to the many other fantastic schools that you plan to apply to.

In fact, shifting your focus from your deferment and to your applications to the other schools that you have on your list can help you in many ways.

First of all, it will help restore your morale and excitement to get into some great schools. Secondly, it could help you figure out that you are actually starting to favor one school over another in terms of where you want to end up studying as an undergraduate.

The most important thing here is to not let your deferral keep you down so long that it ends up hurting your chances of getting into other colleges! Stay positive and make sure that you don’t lose sight of your overall goals.

Need for advice applying to top-tier schools?

When it comes to applying to some of the best schools in the world like Harvard, Stanford, Yale or MIT, even the most accomplished students need to be prepared for the fact that they might be deferred from their top school. Those students should also take every step that they can to improve their chances of getting into their top target schools.

One thing that more and more students are doing these days is working with Ivy League admissions consultants like AdmissionSight. We pride ourselves on giving the students that we work with the tools and knowledge that they need to beat the odds of even the lowest acceptance rates to get into top schools.

If you are interested in learning about what we can do to help improve your chances of getting into Ivy League schools and other top-10 schools, contact us today to set up a free consultation.


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