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

This is the time of year I am 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 I 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 deferred.

(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.)

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

What to do if you are deferred, postponed, or wait-listed for college…

  1.  Stay positive!  Remember that a college deferral 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. For example, here are the University of Michigan guidelines for postponed applicants.) 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. Write a letter or college deferral essay.  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, etc.
  5. Visit the college to sit in on a class and/or meet with someone in admissions.
  6. Send your midyear transcript.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
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Read answers from Debbie Merion to college application essay questions on Quora. Debbie’s answers have been viewed 148,000 times!

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