By Ethan Currie
So you’ve been deferred. It’s probably not the decision you wanted to hear, but it is worth keeping in mind what this decision means at a basic level. For context, admissions offices have three types of decisions they give out for early applications: 1.) Admit (clear enough), 2.) Deny (also clear enough), and 3.) Defer, which essentially means the admissions office wants to learn more about you, your academics, and how the overall class is shaping up, before making a final decision about your application. As someone who read many defer files as an admissions counselor at UW Madison, I can tell you that there is one important thing to know about a deferral – you will only get that decision if the admissions office knows you have the ability to succeed on their campus, and that should be encouraging! You’re prepared for college! But, still, it sure would be nice to turn that defer into an admit.
It’s a common question we get here at Galin: how do I respond to a defer decision to increase my chances of being admitted in the second round of reviews? While there’s no silver bullet, here are some steps you can take:
- Mid year grades. This is the most important component of your defer response, as some universities will not even re-review your application unless they have new academic information on file. Check with your specific universities, some will allow self-reporting of those courses and grades while others will require an official transcript submitted by your counselor. To that end, it’s important to check in with your school counselor earlier rather than later to make sure your high school has or will be submitting those first semester grades (Side note: many students will take on a significantly higher level of rigor in senior year versus what they took in junior year, and it is not uncommon for admissions counselors to want to see evidence of continued strong grades in those higher-level courses, which is why it’s important to continue to do well through senior year!)
- A letter of continued interest. Admissions offices will often accept an additional essay or letter that applicants can use to restate or re-emphasize their interest in the university. In particular, you should think carefully about how to approach this letter and work to avoid simply repeating or paraphrasing points from essays already submitted. Instead, you can think if there was something possibly left out of earlier essays, or if you’ve since learned of some interesting research project, academic department, program, etc. In particular here are things to consider including in a letter of continued interest:
- Any academic or extracurricular updates. Schools will typically ask for you to update them if your academic plans change regardless, but your response to a defer decision can and should include any updates in terms of honor rolls, awards, certificates, or any other kind of academic recognition you may have earned since applying last Fall. Similarly, new senior-year positions in clubs that maybe weren’t known at the time you applied can demonstrate your continued passion to pursue your interests outside the classroom. Can also mention if you’ve gotten a new job!
- Additional materials related to your choice of major. Once in senior year, many students are able to start taking courses more specifically related to a possible future area of study than they were earlier in high school, and some are even able to start producing work related to that area of study. This could be in the form of a report, an essay, a website, a technological gadget, or many things in between. While it’s unlikely a reviewer will have the time to pore over a long final essay for a history class or listen to a full, original musical composition, they can see evidence of your passion and interest in the field you’d like to study. (Side tip: whenever possible, try to make materials as easy as possible for a reviewer to open and comprehend. Just sending a link to a website will likely result in less impact than sending a PDF with images of your web design or invention and maybe some text descriptions; the clicking of a link (or sometimes having to type out the whole URL in a web browser) is just an extra step you want to avoid.)
With all of this, you want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and emphasizing the elements of your application that you think are strongest. In general, err on the side of conciseness, but make sure to include as much substance as you can. Simply repeating ‘I love X University!’ is a fine start, but universities want to hear more detail that is particular to you, your experiences, and your goals. Get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about deferral responses!