What to Do If You’re Deferred From College

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After weeks of waiting, you finally receive your college application results via email. Trembling with anticipation, you click it open, only to be met with the words, “Your application has been deferred.”

You know perfectly well what “deferred” means. The college is still deliberating whether to mark your application as “accepted” or “rejected.” Naturally, you feel disappointed. Why prolong your agony? Why can’t they just make their mind up about you, based on the materials you already sent over?

Fortunately, you don’t have to sit around and wait for a decision. You can still do a number of things that’ll make the waiting process a lot easier, such as the following.


Take a Deep Breath, and Put Things in Perspective

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It is okay to feel disappointed. As long as you’re able to bounce back before the admissions committee sends you its final decision, acknowledging your feelings is a healthy thing to do. Afterward, take a deep breath, and inhale and exhale, until you feel all the negative emotions dissipating and your head clearing up.

Once you’re done with that, try to look at the situation from a more positive angle. Log onto College Confidential, see if you can dig up any less-than-pleasant information about the college that deferred you, and thank the heavens for helping you dodge a bullet. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, head over to the next step.


Consider Your Other Options

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You applied to more than one college, right? Whether those other colleges are high on your priority list or not, it helps to have a back-up plan. Check out the others that meet your requirements, browse through their undergraduate programs again, and see if you can find any courses that match your other interests. Who knows; your calling might be in another field.

Also, consider getting a part-time job in the meantime. This way, you can keep yourself away from negativity, hone crucial skills and experience, have something concrete to put on your other college application essays, earn money and have fun all at the same time!

Contact the Admissions Office

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If you’ve already set your sights on a certain college, try sending them a deferral letter. This will let them know you’re still interested and hopefully persuade the university to give you a favorable response in return. Here are a few tips for writing that letter to the college admissions office:

  • Start the letter with the reason you’re writing. Let the person know that you’re disappointed, and explain why. Ideally, your “why” should be something along the lines of “I visited other colleges, and yours appeared to be the best fit for me.”
  • Discuss any additional info that will persuade them to give you a second look and that isn’t included in any of the previous documents you sent.
  • Avoid sounding desperate. If you read it out loud and you sound like you’d move heaven and earth just to get into the college, adjust the tone of your letter.
  • Use simple, but precise, words.
  • Include only as much information as necessary. College admissions officers are usually swamped with applications, so they’ll appreciate anyone who respects their time enough to send concise yet compelling letters.
  • Remember to thank them for their time.
  • Proofread your letter for any mistakes in spelling, grammar, and tone.

Basically, you need to convince your dream college you are a good fit for them and you can bring great things to the table as a student. If you can do this, there’s a good chance the college will give you that much-needed “yes.”

Distract Yourself

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The more you think about your deferral, the more stressed you’ll be. The more stressed you are, the more you’ll do reckless things just to make your dream college reconsider. So do other things that won’t remind you of your deferral.

Treat yourself to your favorite brand of chocolate. Organize your messy drawers. Watch that blockbuster movie your friends have been raving about for weeks. Ask those same friends to crash over at your house so you can party like there’s no tomorrow. Braid your hair in a new style, so you’ll feel much better about yourself. Next thing you know, you’ll be feeling a lot better about your situation.

Focus on Your Schoolwork


You still have a little time left in high school, so better make the most of it. Study like a straight-A student, get involved in more extracurricular activities, and expand your circle of friends. You’ll have more to show prospective colleges if you stay productive, even while filling up all those applications.

Keep Your Chin Up

Above all, stay positive. A can-do mindset might not be a hundred percent guarantee that you’ll be accepted, but a negative mindset is a surefire way to derail any remaining chances you have. Keep things in perspective, plug away like there’s no tomorrow, and hope for the best.

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Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, a blog dedicated to helping readers navigate the job search and work world to find happiness and success. She specializes in career advice but is also a health nut and DIY junkie with a passion for living life to the fullest. You can follow Sarah @SarahLandrum