Niche Resources

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into College if You’ve Been Deferred

At some point in your senior year, there will be a moment when your mailbox (or email inbox) holds your future, determining the location of the next four years of your life. This anticipation can quickly turn to disappointment if the letter from your top-choice colleges, to which you applied early decision, is anxiously opened, only to view the word “deferred” in place of your anticipated acceptance.

Thankfully, the college admissions game is not black and white. While a deferral is certainly not the preferred answer, nor does it indicate an acceptance, it should not be considered a rejection. A deferral from an early decision cycle refers to the decision by the school to consider your application in the regular decision cycle. In short, the school is offering you another chance at admission.

Early action deadlines are designed to offer admission to a limited number of students, in order to allow the admissions department to better plan for the upcoming regular decision cycle. This preliminary round allows the admissions team a chance to evaluate their early admits in light of their projected goals for the academic year. If their goal is to admit a well-rounded freshman class with unique perspectives, the department will need time to pause and regroup before the regular decision round begins.

The heartening news in a deferral scenario is that the school saw enough promise in the materials provided by your early  application that they did not reject you outright, although it’s worth noting that some schools do move all applicants the don’t accept early into the standard pool. Either way, the potential for acceptance is still on the table, and you will be reevaluated in the regular decision cycle.

Many elite schools don’t publish their deferral data public, but one statistic we can cite is from Georgetown, which says that about 15% of candidates deferred from Early Action are accepted once they enter the regular applicant pool. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says it’s harder to say, claiming on their website that they admitted just 4% of deferred students last year, but 10% the year before.

Bottom line: Your chances of eventually getting in will vary school to school, but there is still a chance you’ll get in.

Should you find yourself facing a deferral letter from your top school, follow these steps to ensure your highest chance of acceptance in their second-round of admission.

Research the Requirements

It’s possible in the case of a deferred application that the school simply wants to see more information from you before making a final decision. It is also possible that the admissions team at your dream school simply needs more time to consider your application. The good news is that they saw early promise in your application and would like to revisit it.

Research what options exist for sending additional application information. Check your school’s website for information specific to the school for deadlines pertaining to a deferral. For instance, Duke requires deferred students to submit a midyear report by  February 15, meaning they want to receive an actual update on your grades and involvement before reconsidering your application.

Each school will have varying deadlines and information they will want to see from their deferred students. For instance, UNC asks simply for a self-reported midyear grade update. Visit your school’s page regarding deferral information to make sure you keep their deadline in mind while moving forward through the next steps.

The percentage of deferred students who are eventually accepted to Georgetown University.

Revisit Your College List, and Your Priorities

Consider the silver lining of your deferral letter and seize the opportunity to revisit your college list. This is a great time to add schools you may have missed in the early round of research, discover new schools who offer EDII deadlines or regular decision deadlines you hope to meet. While your research may not lead you to a new dream school to replace your deferral school, the search may lead you to a surprising school previously overlooked.

If you choose to research schools offering EDII (or later early decision) deadlines, you should note that the majority of schools, such as George Washington University, hold their deadlines for this cycle in early January, but a select few, like Kalamazoo College, offer February deadlines.

No matter what, remain positive. A contingency plan may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to your education. The discovery of a school with a better financial package or more robust internship program may be the best choice for you in the big picture.

Refresh Your Resume

Maintain your high quality grades throughout your senior year, as many colleges pay close attention to student’s senior-year grades and course load. Schools will want to see that you can handle the pressure of applying to college alongside pursuing your AP classes — it’s an indicator of your ability to handle a college schedule. Stay involved in all of the activities noted on your resume: clubs, sports, etc.

Reach Out the Right Way

While it is important to keep in mind your school’s deadlines, make sure that you have substantial content to include in your mid-year update. Plan to include an email or letter, often called a deferral letter, in your application file to the admissions counselor presiding over your territory. Always check the school’s website before writing or emailing the letter, as they may request to see certain information or have a form through which the letter should be sent in lieu of an email.

When writing a deferral letter, make sure the content is contained within one page, and updates the school on the following information:

  • Send the clear message that this is your top choice school and are certain that their campus is the ideal home for your undergraduate education.
  • Update the admissions team on what has transpired since your early action application. Share your decision to challenge yourself academically by participating in a rigorous course load and maintain the GPA that impressed them enough to consider you for further review.
  • Note any new accomplishments since the time of your early application. This is the time to highlight recent publishing of your summer research project, academic highlights, and new developments in your activities outside the classroom. Include a link to your LinkedIn page and/or updated resume for further reading. Do not use this space to reiterate information that was previously covered in your early action materials, as this may highlight the idea that there is no new information to share.
  • End your letter on a note that leaves no room for any other conclusion than you being the best fit for their incoming freshman class.

Revamp Your Recommendations

Check the college’s website for their instructions for allowing additional recommendations to be sent along with your update. At this point in the year, teachers are less flooded with requests for recommendations. Take this opportunity to seek out a new voice to add an opinion of your qualifications to your application.


Despite the weeks spent agonizing over supplemental essays and meticulous attention spent on the application, spend the upcoming waiting game secure in the knowledge that you have presented the best version of yourself to your top school. Now the decision is left to the admissions professionals to determine whether your talents would make a good match with the rest of the incoming freshmen class in the regular decision cycle. Your early application was responsible for getting your foot in the door, and now it is up to your mid-year update to fully open the front doors of your new home for the next four years.

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Author: Michaela Schieffer

Michaela Schieffer is a former admissions counselor and now independent college counselor, guiding students through their college applications and essays through Moon Prep's specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.