Understanding University Deferral Letters

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Waiting around for your university admissions letter can be one of high school students’ most anxiety-inducing experiences. The constant checking for a letter or email, the fear that you didn’t nail your admissions process, the worry that you didn’t get into your top-university choice–it can all be a bit too much.

While the fear of a rejection letter is very real, many young students often forget that university admissions isn’t always a simple ‘accepted’ or ‘denied.’ There is another, fairly common decision that students can receive–a deferral (sometimes also known as deferred entry.

Let’s talk about university deferrals, and what you can expect as you apply to college.

What is a University Deferral?

Deferral is a process through which some universities may send an early decision applicant if they did feel the applicant wasn’t quite ready for admission. The reason universities defer some students is quite simple: They want to give strong early candidates a second shot at admission if they didn’t get in their first try. Students who apply early and are strong candidates—but don’t obviously beat out the other early pool candidates are deferred to the regular admissions pool to be considered as applicants against the regular pool of students.

This is not necessarily a rejection, just a second chance at admission. This helps universities maintain a list of strong applicants without being forced to reject some of them in the early stages of admissions–they can instead defer them to a later round.

What Types of Deferrals Are There? 

Generally, there are two different types of deferrals–university deferral and student deferral (sometimes called gap year deferral). They both result in the same thing: a student’s admission is deferred to a later date, but both are distinct in significant ways.

A university deferral is what we described above: the deferring college’s admissions team decides to defer your application to a later round of admissions. This is very common for students who attempt early admissions to competitive universities.

Why Was I Deferred?

When you spend months and months preparing for your university admissions process, it’s hard to not take a deferral letter as a rejection. It certainly can feel like one when you get the news. However, it’s important to remember that a deferral doesn’t mean that you will not attend this school in the fall.

There are a number of reasons for a deferral, but the bottom line is that, if you liked a college enough to apply for early decision or early action, don’t let a deferral in December or January keep you from possibly becoming a student. You can use the opportunity to restate your interest.

Statistics of Deferrals

Every university has its own individual statistics on deferrals–not all of which are made public. However, some universities, like Georgetown (where every early applicant not accepted in the early rounds is deferred to the later round), do release their deferral information.

Other universities, like Yale, deferred 50% of not-accepted early applicants this year. Again, this is a pretty high deferral rate, but it goes to show that top universities are more than willing to give top-notch students a second chance at admissions. These numbers have actually been increasing year-over-year, due to more and more students applying for early admissions, as well as Covid-19 impacting the rate at which students are taking gap years.

What to do After you Receive a University Deferral Letter?

Once you receive the notice that you have been deferred by your top choice university, you may be anxious. Here are a few things to do while waiting for your next admissions letters to arrive:

Take a Deep Breath

You are going to go to college! Although the school that deferred you may have seemed like your best choice, remember that situations like this still tend to work out favorably.

Recheck Your College List

A well-rounded college list contains reach, target, and likely schools. If you were deferred from an Ivy or other reach school (Ivies are reaches for everyone), check to make sure that you’ve applied to a healthy mix of schools and apply to some schools with rolling admissions or later admissions deadlines if you haven’t already.

Write a letter of continued interest

A letter of continued interest is a letter sent to the school reaffirming your commitment to study there. Many students who are deferred simply set their sights on other schools, so a deferral letter can help confirm your interest to admissions officers and increase your chances of admission in the next round of admissions. However, it’s important to ask your guidance counselor if a deferral letter is appropriate in your particular case.

Here is an example letter:

Dear (Director), 

I received your recent admissions decision of Deferred status concerning my application. Although this was not the decision I was seeking, I remain very interested in becoming a member of [School Name]’s Class of 2026. 

Since my initial application submission, I have (list a couple of new accomplishments, achievements, higher ACT/SAT/GPA, any significant developments, etc.). I have attached an updated transcript with my past semester grades. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need additional information. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you

[your full name]

School ID#

Final Thoughts

College deferrals can feel devastating, especially for those who have their heart set on a specific school. But it’s important to remember that a deferral can actually be used to your advantage. It gives you time to better prepare and allows you to go into a less competitive admissions round against other regular decision applications.

We make it our mission to provide young students with the information necessary to make college admissions a breeze. Reach out to us today, or read any of the other blog posts, to learn more about how you or your child can prepare for the long (but exciting!) process of college admissions!

For more information, read these posts:

You’ve Been Deferred, Now What?

College Application Deadlines for Fall 2020

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