December 27, 2021

College Deferment: What to Do If You Get Deferred

It’s the end of the year. After submitting an application to your top college before the Early Action deadline, you receive a letter from the admissions department. It is not an acceptance letter or a rejection. Instead, it’s something else entirely: a deferral.

For many students, deferrals can be a source of stress. The college has decided that, while you might be a good fit for their institution, the college wants to consider your application in relation to the larger, regular decision application pool. While you remain in consideration, the college 

wants to see who else is applying for the limited slots they have in their incoming class.

In this blog, we’ll try to alleviate some of the stress associated with a deferral by asking you to think about three different things: finding out what a college might still need from you; submitting supplementary materials; and thinking about other schools.

Finding Out What the College Needs

The reasons for a deferral can vary—from a desire to see a student’s midterm report to needing a better test score on the ACT or SAT. If there is any particular reason for the deferral, the college may state the reason in their letter along with a list of documents or materials they need for making a final decision. A student should make sure to read their deferral letter closely and carefully to understand what the college still needs.

That said, if a college states explicitly that deferred students should not submit additional application materials, they should not send anything further. Students can ruin their chances in the regular round by showing that they do not follow directions. Do not submit what is not requested.

Compose a Deferral Letter

If a college does accept additional materials or has invited a student to send in additional documents, they can send those packaged with a deferral letter. This deferral letter should be one page, sent by email and followed by a hard copy addressed to the admissions representative at the college who evaluates applicants from your high school. The Dean of Admissions should be copied to the email.

The letter should show the student’s commitment to the school and state explicitly that, if they are admitted, they intend to enroll. The letter should also restate the reasons why the school fits the student’s academic and personal needs. It should, ideally, also contain references to the college that show the student knows the school (e.g. professors, aspects of campus life) and any achievements that the student has made inside and outside the classroom since they first applied.

Parallel to sending the letter, you might also arrange a college visit and a face-to-face meeting with an admissions counselor. Both these experiences can give you another chance to assess the college while demonstrating the student’s interest in it.

Think About Other Schools

Finally, a deferral can be an opportunity to think about other colleges. While students should take time to address a deferral and provide additional information if requested, it should not absorb all their time. It is still possible that, even after evaluating a student’s materials in the regular cohort, they will still be denied. 

While it is okay to be disappointed with this kind of decision, other options remain open. Students should take the opportunity to consider the other colleges they applied to and the opportunities there. What is most important, in the end, is the student and the attitude they bring to whichever institution they attend.


We hope this piece has been helpful in helping students make sense of deferrals. At Class 101, we provided tailored guidance to each student and their needs. To learn what we have available, reach out to your nearest location.

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