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Deferred to Regular Decision? Here’s What to Do:

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

As early applications wrap up, students are preparing for what’s to come in the upcoming months. Acceptance? Denial? Deferment? Waitlisted? These are all possibilities for the Class of 2022. Every year, colleges defer a number of students to their Regular Decision round, leaving the possibility of admission open. Traditionally, students deferred to do not get an advantage or disadvantage when compared to those students who applied directly through RD. However, here are some things to do when you’re met with the challenge of being deferred.


As a counselor, the first thing I would do is encourage the student to learn to pivot.


A few years back we had a Career Day at school where I was given a new and refreshed understanding of this concept.


Here’s how it went:


We had a panel of three professionals in three different areas of sports: a Broadcaster, a College Athletic Director, and a Fitness/Lifestyle Influencer. At the time we had a group of seniors present in the audience, a few being young men who were likely headed into the next MLB draft.


In one of the panelists knowing this, the importance of having a “back up plan” came into conversation. What if one of them got hurt? What if something went wrong? I learned something that day when one of the panelists changed the wording from having a “back up plan” to “learning to pivot”.


What’s the difference? The difference is that the verbiage of “back up plan” alludes to taking away all decision making from the individual who is actually still in charge. It makes it seem like that person has no options, and they are resorting to the “next best thing”.


Realistically, none of us can predict the future. I’ve known kids who have gone off to their first-choice schools and wanted to come home; and I’ve known kids who have had amazing experiences at their first-choice schools as they expected.


“Pivoting” is not the same as having a “back up plan” because it focuses on a mind shift. What if the student were to think about what may be in store for them at one of these other schools, that perhaps they would have missed out on had they been accepted into their first-choice school.


Maybe they’re meant to meet their future spouse there? Maybe their new college roommate’s dad helps them land their dream job after graduation? Maybe they decide to change their major because of a certain professor’s positive influence in their life? We may never know why the universe lands us in the places it does, but from what I’ve seen – there is usually always a reason.

If you end up being denied, waitlisted, or deferred, I encourage you dive deeper into the schools you WERE accepted to. Take pride in those places and look forward to finding out what’s to meet you on the other side.


Now, what should you do to increase your chances of acceptance? 😊


Here are 3 strategies to follow:


1. Try to find out why you were deferred. Your school counselor may be able to have some insight or can contact their Admissions Department on your behalf. Speak to them to see what they think and follow their lead.


2. See if the school is open to you writing a Letter of Continued Interest. If they are, WRITE ONE and make it FANTASTIC! You want the school to know it’s your first choice. Address the letter specifically to their admissions committee and do not repeat anything you’ve already told them. Provide information on new grades, test scores, and acts of leadership within your school or community. Remain mature in what you say and keep your grades up to provide a stellar mid-year report!


3. Resist the urge to seem desperate. You want to show them this is something important to you, but you do not want to bombard them with what’s considered useless information to them. Read the deferral letter and follow exactly what it says. If they are open to an additional letter of recommendation, make sure this is from someone of impact and that they really know you. A school principal, a department chair, or another administrator may carry weight to an admissions team.


When all else fails, remember the mindset of what it means to “pivot”. You control your future, no one else.

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