Deferred, Postponed, Wait-listed for College? Eight Helpful Actions!

This is the time of year we are starting to hear from Essay Coaching students about acceptances and being deferred, postponed, or wait-listed for college–different words to request the same action:  that you wait even longer for the good news you’re hoping to hear.  It’s hard to emotionally accept a college deferral and from this end, sometimes hard to understand why a student has received one.  For example, last year we reviewed the GPA and SAT or ACT of four students assisted by Essay Coaching who applied to numerous schools, including the University of Michigan. All had strong essays. All had test scores above the 95th percentile and grades 3.8 and above.

Yet two were accepted from the University of Michigan, and two were postponed.

The good news is that you can choose to act when you see a college deferral.  You can intelligently and calmly handle this.

How to write a deferral letter or college deferral essay for a continued interest form 

Mention your strong attributes, fit for the college and potential contributions. Say you will attend if accepted (if that is true). Mention what has changed since you applied–any new extracurriculars, awards, projects, jobs, courses, etc. For example, the University of Michigan has a Expression of Continued Interest Form (ECI) for you to write a 250 word letter of continued interest. Make sure you tell them as clearly as you can why you would love to attend, and why they are your first choice school (if they are).

Mention something that you’ve seen or heard that has you really excited about their school. Give the name of a building, and describe what you saw or heard during your visit there.  Or give the name or relationship of a person, and quote what they said that has you excited you about your possibility of attending the school.

Compare what you saw or heard to an experience that you are having now that you are thriving in. Maybe a course or program you would like to take relates to something you are learning now? Be as specific as possible. Use names, dates, places, program and course names.

Contact if you would like help writing this letter or you’d like to receive feedback on the letter you’ve written.

Seven more steps if you are deferred, postponed, or wait-listed for college…

  1.  Stay positive!  Remember that a college deferral for postponed applicants means that you are a qualified candidate.  College representatives continue to say that they unfortunately cannot accept all qualified candidates.
  2. Look at your “I applied to” list again. Check that the schools on your “best fit college” application list have received all of your application materials. Also, “Consider updating your list of colleges, in case you missed a couple that might fit well,” recommends John B. Boshoven, College Counseling Coordinator for Ann Arbor Public Schools. In case you need it, here is a list of colleges with late application deadlines.
  3. Contact your admissions representative to politely ask if he or she can give you any information about how you can improve your application. (Make sure you read the deferral letter/email/website carefully before you call. Ask if the school will accept any additional materials, such as a letter of recommendation or an art portfolio. If they will, send them. Be polite, grateful, and brief in your conversation.
  4. Visit the college to sit in on a class and/or meet with someone in admissions.
  5. Send your midyear transcript.
  6. Remember that you can always transfer.  You will probably end up loving wherever you end up. But if you don’t, you can always transfer.  (I personally transferred to the University of Michigan from the University of Delaware and immediately felt like it was a place where I belonged.) Note that your chances of getting accepted at one sample school — the University of Michigan — go up if you apply as a transfer student (39.1 % acceptance rate for transfer students, 22.9 % acceptance rate for first year applicants).
  7. Above all, don’t forget to stay positive! This bears repeating!  You have already done the hardest part–decided you want to go to college, and applied.  There is a college for everyone.  Keep your fingers crossed and attentive to your applications.

(When I attempted to understand how U of M makes acceptance decisions by interviewing University of Michigan admissions officers for hours, I learned that understanding the admissions process can be like trying to understand why a couple fell in love–sometimes you understand their perspective, and sometimes you don’t.  Here is the story about U of M’s college admissions that was published from my efforts.  Paper Cut-The U-M Picks Its Freshman Class.)

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Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Check out the free Essay Coaching quizzes here.  Would you like to work one-on-one with a principled, honest, award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion: