Home

Being Deferred: What It Means and What Your Next Steps Should Be

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    Scroll to Top

    The day has finally arrived. You’ve received an email stating that your application status has changed. You eagerly hop onto your computer and check the school’s application website. You’re hoping for an acceptance, but if it says rejected, you’ll try not to be too disappointed. Besides, you’ve created a Balanced College List, so come spring, you should have plenty of options. 

    But then you read the following: The admissions committee has completed its early action deliberations and has deferred a decision on your application until the spring. Deferred. What does this mean? Is it the same thing as being waitlisted? How do you proceed?

    Complimentary Initial Consultation

    Fill out this form to book your complimentary initial consultation.

    What does being deferred mean?

    deferred from college A deferral letter is neither a rejection nor an acceptance. Take a look at the glass half-full and think of it as a second chance to impress the admissions committee. A student is deferred when they’ve applied through Early Action or Early Decision and college admissions officers decide that there isn’t enough information or context to grant them a full acceptance. Rather than reject the student, the application is essentially put on pause until the regular decision admission cycle.

    The student might be a strong applicant, but the school needs more time and information before they can reach a final decision. They might need to see your entire application — including senior year grades and new standardized test scores — in order to better understand how you stand next to the rest of the Regular Decision applicants.

    What does being deferred mean?

    A deferral letter is neither a rejection nor an acceptance. Take a look at the glass half-full and think of it as a second chance to impress the admissions committee. A student is deferred when they’ve applied through Early Action or Early Decision and college admissions officers decide that there isn’t enough information or context to grant them a full acceptance. Rather than reject the student, the application is essentially put on pause until the regular decision admission cycle.

    The student might be a strong applicant, but the school needs more time and information before they can reach a final decision. They might need to see your entire application — including senior year grades and new standardized test scores — in order to better understand how you stand next to the rest of the Regular Decision applicants. deferred from college

    What’s the difference between being deferred and waitlisted?

    The terms “deferred” and “waitlisted” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different processes. As previously stated, students who apply through Early Decision and Early Action, may receive a deferral letter, stating that they have neither been accepted nor rejected, but that their application will be reconsidered during the next admission cycle. 

    Conversely, being “waitlisted” means that although qualified, the college has already admitted the maximum number of students. That being said, it’s unlikely that every single admitted student will decide to enroll. Students who have been waitlisted may be contacted in the spring or summer if a spot opens up. Waitlisted letters are sent out during the regular decision admission cycle. 

    It’s worth noting that while some schools rank their waitlists, this is not the case with deferrals. If you’ve been waitlisted by an Ivy League institution, check out our article, What to Do After You’ve Been Waitlisted on Ivy Day, for more insight on how to best proceed. 

    Why do colleges defer students?

    There are several reasons why an applicant may be deferred during the Early Decision/Early Action application round. Sometimes the school just needs more information from the applicant to make an informed decision, such as senior year grades. 

    Depending on the applicant, schools may want to give them another chance to improve their grades or further their extracurricular involvement. If the student is engaging in a high school passion project, admissions officers may want to hear meaningful updates on the student’s progress before reaching a final decision. 

    College admissions officers also don’t know what their regular decision pool of applicants will look like yet. By deferring you, they can better decide if you are a good fit for the school and the incoming student body.

    Why do colleges defer students?

    There are several reasons why an applicant may be deferred during the Early Decision/Early Action application round. Sometimes the school just needs more information from the applicant to make an informed decision, such as senior year grades. 

    Depending on the applicant, schools may want to give them another chance to improve their grades or further their extracurricular involvement. If the student is engaging in a high school passion project, admissions officers may want to hear meaningful updates on the student’s progress before reaching a final decision. 

    College admissions officers also don’t know what their regular decision pool of applicants will look like yet. By deferring you, they can better decide if you are a good fit for the school and the incoming student body.

    Ivy League deferral statistics

    At this point, you’re probably wondering, is getting deferred a bad thing and how often do deferred students get accepted? 

    Generally, college counselors, such as those at Ivy Coach, believe that deferred Ivy League applicants have about a 10% chance of acceptance. Of course, this varies from school to school, but it is nice to have a general idea of where you stand in terms of admissions. It’s also worth noting that while some schools, such as Harvard University, defer the majority of Early applicants, other elite institutions, such as Stanford University, send deferral letters much more sparingly. 

    According to an article written by Ivy Coach, 83% of Harvard’s early admission pool was deferred to Regular Decision during the Class of 2028 admission cycle. The year before, 78% of early applicants were deferred. Unfortunately, Stanford University has not released official admissions statistics for several years, but it’s well-established that they defer far fewer students. Ultimately, this means that a deferral letter from Stanford University carries a bit more weight than a deferral letter from Harvard University. Again, keep in mind, a deferral is not a rejection! As previously discussed, an average of 10% of these students were admitted during the Regular Decision application cycle.

    Now, let’s take a look at some more Ivy League deferral statistics to get a better idea of what your odds actually are of being admitting:

    During the Class of 2026 admissions cycle, Yale University admitted 800 students through its Single Choice Early Action program. Of its 7,288 early applicants, 30% (2,244 students) were deferred and 57% (4,155 students) were denied outright.

    Let’s take a look at another prestigious school, MIT. During MIT’s Class of 2027 admission cycle, 11,924 students applied through Early Action. Of these, 6% (685 students) were admitted and 66% (7,892 students) were deferred. During Regular Decision, 146 deferred students were offered admission. This means that 1.8% of deferred students were eventually admitted.

    And what about Brown University? During the Class of 2028 admission cycle, 6,244 students applied through Early Decision. Of these students, 14.38% were offered admission, 67.6% were denied, and 16.8% were deferred. 

    What to do if you get deferred

    Deferred early decision applicants should first decide whether or not they still want to attend their top college. If this school has now been bumped on your list and another school has taken its place, you might want to evaluate how important it is to you that you get accepted. If it isn’t a major priority, then you and your college counselor can discuss your next course of action.

    If a school is still your top choice, there are a few key actions you’ll need to take to increase your chances of being admitted. For further insight, check out this article from a Harvard student that was also deferred. 

    01

    Follow the instructions on your deferral letter

    Your deferral letter will likely let you know of any additional steps you’ll need to take. Some schools will want more information from you, such as senior year grades or additional recommendations, while others won’t. If the admissions office asks you to avoid doing something, take that seriously and do avoid doing it. Unfortunately, students may jeopardize their chances of admission if they do not follow the directions given to them. 

    If you’re unsure about the best course of action to take, reach out to the college admissions office via email for clarification. Be polite, purposeful, and brief in your correspondence. You do not want to make a bad impression by being rude, expressing frustration, making excuses, or being a nuisance by sending too many (or overly verbose) emails. 

    If you’re not sure how to format this type of email, refer to the template below:

    Email template for an admissions office

    Dear [name of college] admissions,

    My name is [blank] and I am reaching out in regards to my recent deferment. Are there any steps I should take to improve my application? Please let me know what you would recommend.

    Sincerely,

    [Your name]

    02

    Write a letter of continued interest

    Should the college ask you to provide more information, your first action should be to write a deferral letter, also known as a letter of continued interest, around January or February.

    This letter should update the admissions committee on what you have been up to since submitting your application to their institution. You should include your first semester grades and any other highlights, such as awards, publications, and other academic and extracurricular achievements.

    For example, if your football team won the regional championship with you as the captain you should include this in the letter. You should also let the school know that they are still your top choice and would gladly enroll should you be accepted. This is referred to as “demonstrated interest” and can go a long way. After all, college admissions officers want to admit students who are likely to enroll. 

     For more guidance on how to format this letter, check out our article, How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest. Additionally, you may be interested in reading up on Reasons College Applications May Get Rejected.

    Letter of continued interest (deferral) template

    Dear [admissions representative name here],

    I am writing in regards to my deferral for admission to [University Name]. Since submitting my application, [briefly state what you’ve achieved since applying, then provide additional context in the body paragraphs].

    Since applying to [University Name] I have [state the various achievements you’ve made since initially applying. This may include a competition that you won or outline your involvement with a specific activity that had a significant impact on the community or yourself. State how this experience or achievement has contributed to your knowledge or personal growth. Finally, tie these experiences back to how you would contribute to the university should you be admitted].

    I believe I would make an excellent addition to [University Name] and contribute greatly to the community and the campus. Thank you for your time and continued consideration of my application.

    Sincerely,

    [Your name]

    03

    Submit your senior year grades

    The school you were deferred from probably wants to see how you would finish off your high school career. After all, early applicants don’t receive their fall semester grades until after they submit their applications. Therefore, a school may decide to take an extra look at a student who may have struggled in a class during their junior year, just to confirm that they are on track.

    This is why combating senioritis (the lack of drive at the end of the year) is extremely important. It can seem like your senior year grades don’t matter since colleges don’t usually see them, but schools you were deferred from would like to know how you did. In fact, your high school GPA and level of academic rigor are the two most important application factors. This is why it’s important to stay on top of your schoolwork and finish high school strong!

    04

    Apply to regular decision schools

    Regardless of the outcome of the deferral, you should still prepare yourself for rejection by applying to other schools through Regular Decision. After all, you don’t know what will happen once you submit your deferral letter and final grades. This is why it is best to have a backup plan and apply to schools’ regular decision that you would be happy to attend. 

    If you haven’t started the rest of your college applications, it’s time to get to work! While you may need to submit additional application materials to your top school, don’t let this take up too much of your time and attention. Do your best to assemble competitive and compelling college applications to expand your options come springtime. 

    You may consider polishing up your personal statement and adding details to your extracurriculars if needed, but otherwise, you’ll want to focus your attention on writing successful supplemental essays, especially your “why this college” essay. As you likely know, supplemental essays are a key factor in college admissions, so make sure you prioritize writing thorough and thoughtful responses for every school. 

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Being deferred is not the end of the world. It is just another opportunity to prove yourself to the admissions committee. If you need clarifications as to whether you should submit additional application materials, reach out to admissions directly. Be brief, purposeful, and courteous in your correspondence. Depending on their response, you may want to write a deferral letter where you reaffirm your interest and briefly outline the progress you’ve made since your initial application. You may also be allowed to provide an additional letter of recommendation

    College admissions are incredibly competitive and receiving a deferral or even a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not a qualified applicant. It does mean, however, that in order to increase your chances of experiencing academic success in college you will want to apply to other colleges that are a good fit for you. It’s also worth noting that deferred students are no longer bound by their initial Early Decision contract. This means that come spring, you’ll have more freedom to compare schools and financial aid packages before deciding where to enroll.  

    Being deferred can be a stressful and confusing process. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance or want a qualified panel of professionals to review your application, reach out to learn more about our services

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Being deferred is not the end of the world. It is just another opportunity to prove yourself to the admissions committee. If you need clarifications as to whether you should submit additional application materials, reach out to admissions directly. Be brief, purposeful, and courteous in your correspondence. Depending on their response, you may want to write a deferral letter where you reaffirm your interest and briefly outline the progress you’ve made since your initial application. You may also be allowed to provide an additional letter of recommendation

    College admissions are incredibly competitive and receiving a deferral or even a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not a qualified applicant. It does mean, however, that in order to increase your chances of experiencing academic success in college you will want to apply to other colleges that are a good fit for you. It’s also worth noting that deferred students are no longer bound by their initial Early Decision contract. This means that come spring, you’ll have more freedom to compare schools and financial aid packages before deciding where to enroll.  

    Being deferred can be a stressful and confusing process. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance or want a qualified panel of professionals to review your application, reach out to learn more about our services

    Contact a Prepory college admissions coach and start your college admissions journey.

    Our college admissions experts are here to guide you from where you are to where you should be. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and online workshops, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

    During our initial consultation, we will: 

    • Assess your student’s applicant profile and higher education goals 
    • Provide detailed information about our services and programming
    • Share tips on how to navigate the U.S. college admissions process 

    Let's get started!


    Subscribe to our blog!