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Deferred = College Admissions Limbo: Five Proactive Steps To Take Next

For those of us who have a high school senior who applied to college(s) ED and/or EA, we've officially reached the most exciting, yet anxiety-filled time of year in the college admissions cycle: Mid-December. While many students will receive clear-cut decisions and learn that they have been admitted or denied, others receive the equivalent to college admissions purgatory: the dreaded "Deferred" decision. I know how disappointing and unsettling it can be for your child to learn that they are essentially in college admissions limbo. Allow them to process theses emotions and then encourage them to move forward in a proactive manner. Remind them that a deferral is not a denial. Colleges defer students for a variety of reasons: because they want to evaluate them within the larger regular decision pool of applicants, because they want to see final first semester grades, because they have not had time to adequately evaluate all students, etc. You can help them remain positive by sharing that there ARE several things they can do to increase their chances of gaining admission to the institution that deferred them OR to their other best-fit college options:

1. Determine what, if anything, the college that deferred you needs from you. Some will specifically ask for first semester grades, an additional recommendation, etc. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE COMMUNICATION YOU HAVE RECEIVED. If a college does NOT want any additional information and explicitly states this, DO NOT send anything in, this may ruin your chances of admittance.

2. IF NOT EXPLICITLY TOLD TO REFRAIN FROM SENDING ANY ADDITIONAL MATERIALS, write an "I'm Still Interested" letter and email it as an attachment to the admissions representative who covers students from your high school (check with your school if you do not know who this person is). Copy the Dean of Admission. Use a formal letter style and include the following information:

  • Remain positive and thank them for continuing to consider you for admission and restate why this school is an ideal fit and meets you academic and extracurricular needs (be specific in naming classes, clubs, etc.).

  • Reiterate your intention to accept an offer if it is provided (colleges have to consider their yield – the number of students who accept offers of admission – as a higher yield translates to higher rankings.) Confirming your intention to accept can be very meaningful. If you are not completely sure you would enroll, reiterate that the school is one of your top choices.

  • Include updates since you applied – first semester grades, any academic awards, any significant academic or extracurricular achievements, etc.

  • Finish with another thanks for their time and reiterate how honored you would be to join and contribute to the ______Class of 2027.

3. Send an additional teacher (or coach, employer, clergy, mentor, etc.) letter of recommendation (IF ALLOWED).

4. Visit the school in an official capacity (especially if you have not done so already). Traveling to the school not an option? In post-COVID times, scheduling an official virtual tour/info session is regarded as demonstrated interest just as an actual visit would be.

5. Apply to ADDITIONAL best-fit colleges with a range of selectivity in the regular decision round if you have not done so already.

Remember, there is not just ONE ideal college for your child, and they will find a great match, receive an excellent education, and enjoy their college years even if they did not get into their very top choice. Best of luck to you all!

Questions or comments? As always – please leave them in comments under this edition of the newsletter, email me at, or call our team at 847-363-6780. If we can be of more substantial help with navigating the deferral process and/or with anything pertaining to charting a Clear Path Forward through your child's journey to their best-fit college, please reach out to us in one of the above ways or fill out a request for a free 20-minute consult on the top of our website at Thank you!


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