When you apply to colleges, you tend to expect one of two answers: acceptance or rejection. For the academic year of 2018–2019, 6,630 students applied to Harvard University under the Early Action program. Of those students, 938 were accepted and 611 were outright denied. The majority — 4,882 applicants — were deferred and many were left wondering what this meant for their chances.
Deferred is the limbo of college admissions — you are not accepted, but you aren’t rejected either. If you applied for early decision, a deferral means that the college did not accept you during the early decision cycle, but they do see enough potential in your application that they would like to reevaluate it again during the regular decision cycle.
A deferral means you still have a chance of getting in and your early application has been turned into a regular decision application. For many students, it can be an advantage to be put in the pool of regular decision applicants, especially if they are a strong candidate. It can also give students an opportunity to show the admission officers an improvement in grades, especially if they have a challenging course load lined up for their senior year.
If you do get deferred, keep in mind that it is not the same at every school. Some schools like Northwestern University only defer about 1–2% of their applicants, whereas Georgetown University defers everyone who isn’t accepted early.
At MIT, out of the 9,571 Early Action applicants, 664 were admitted for the 2018 school year, while 6,331 were deferred, and out of those deferred applicants, just 248 were admitted during Regular Admission.
If you do get deferred, there are steps you can take to make your application even stronger because you are still a candidate for the position.
What To Do When Deferred
- Decide if the college is still your top choice. If you get that deferral notice, it’s time to reevaluate your options. Think if anything has changed since you first applied for early admission to your “dream school.” Is this still your top choice? Is another university looking like a better fit for you now? You are no longer obligated under the early action decision, so if you feel like another school might be a better fit for you, the deferment might be a positive thing, even though it isn’t what you initially wanted. It opens up your options for another university who might be a better fit and offer you a more attractive scholarship package.
- Keep in touch. Sometimes, the university might defer you because they want to see more information from you, like test scores or senior year grades. It might also help to find someone who can write you another letter of recommendation. Reach out to a supervisor at an internship or a coach who can add new information to your application.
- You can also consider updating anything that was either written incorrectly or not written well in your initial application. However, since you don’t want to be overwhelming the college with more information, it is best to seek independent counsel to help you determine what is necessary. Talk to your school guidance counselor or solicit advice from an independent college counselor and they can help you send in the required materials.
- Before sending anything in, make sure to research to see if the college allows any additional material to be sent in. If they don’t, you could be hurting your chances because of an inability to follow directions.
- Write a deferral letter. If you have decided that this college is still your top choice, you should send them a deferral letter. This letter shows how you are a stronger candidate now compared to when you first applied and can help change the minds of the admission officers.
How To Write A Deferral Letter
The deferral letter needs to convey why you should be considered for admission. This letter should be a one-pager and compelling. Time is of the essence, and the letter needs to be sent right away.
It should include:
- Why you are still highly interested in attending and this university and why it is still your top choice. If accepted, you will certainly attend. Don’t say this unless you truly mean it. Be direct and be clear with your message.
- Elaborate on the impressive things you have accomplished since you applied. Discuss the accomplishments or accolades you’ve received in recent months. Tell them what you have been up to. Make your candidate profile stronger.
- Moon Prep students submit a detailed student resume and LinkedIn profile with their applications. LinkedIn makes your activities come to life; think of it as an online portfolio. Extracurricular activities play a large role in U.S. college admissions. If you have recent developments since you submitted your application, update LinkedIn with pictures, videos, or documents. Then, include the link with your deferral letter. Go beyond just filling out the summary, headlines, and experiences. Add pictures, relevant research papers, and video to showcase your accomplishments and activities.
- Reiterate why this college is a perfect fit for you and what you will add to the campus community. Do not restate items you have already mentioned in your personal statement or supplemental essays. Be specific.
Deferral Letter Example
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing to inform you of an addition to my Harvard University application. Although last week I learned that my application was deferred, I am still very interested in attending Harvard University and would be honored to be admitted. Therefore, I wish to update you on my recent activities and achievements.
As mentioned in my Common Application, I have spent the last two summers performing research at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center. I have worked closely with my mentor collecting clinical data to show the correlation between diabetes and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. I am pleased to report that I presented my findings at the North Carolina Chapter Scientific Meeting in November of 2018. I was honored to be highlighted at an event with almost 500 attendees. My research paper, presentation, and photos from the event can be found on my LinkedIn page: <your LinkedIn url>.
This semester, I am taking a full course load to challenge myself academically. My class schedule includes AP Statistics, AP English Language, AP Physics, AP BC Calculus, and Honors Spanish II. I am currently on track to receive an “A” in each of my classes. I have exhausted all of the advanced courses at my high school and have taken all seven AP math and science courses available
I look forward to the opportunity to continue my research at Harvard University in the future. Thank you for your continued consideration of my application,
Q: If I applied Early Decision and was deferred, is this still binding?
A: No, you are now free from the binding commitment. Take this as a positive; you are now free to explore other options. If another school offers you a better scholarship, you can take it.
Q: Should I mail or email my Deferral Letter?
A: Email is fine, as long as you receive a confirmation from the admissions office that they received your letter.
Q: When should I send my Deferral Letter?
A: As soon as possible. Preferably within a week or two of receiving notice you were deferred. Do not delay.
Q: What are some examples of impressive things to include in my Deferral Letter?
A: Here are some examples of what you could include
- High test scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). If you retook the SAT or ACT and your score increased, let them know.
- High grades on rigorous courses. Highlight the advanced courses you are excelling in this semester.
- Extracurricular accomplishments in sports, music, Science Olympiad, DECA, HOSA, National Honors Society, etc.
- Volunteer or shadowing hours and accomplishments.
- The progress you have made in independent projects, such as research.
Research for this article was contributed by Moon Prep essay coach, Lindsey Conger.
Originally published at www.forbes.com on December 11, 2018.