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December 15, 2020

You’ve Been Deferred from your Early Decision College


You poured your heart and soul into this application. It was your top choice college, your dream school. Yet, they sent you a polite yet terse ‘denial’ letter. You felt shocked; or perhaps you said, “it’s okay. I didn’t think I’d get in my top choice anyway.” The questions now are, what next? Do you give up on your top choice, regroup and plow ahead, or is there another way, a Plan B?


  1. Stages of Grief
  2. Regular Decision
  3. Ding Analysis
  4. Write a ‘Deferral Letter’
  5. Letter of Support
  6. Visit
  7. Send updated Transcripts & Standardized Test Scores
  8. Understand the Odds


Stages of Grief

  • Grief from disappointment is normal and is an individual process. Not everyone goes through all five stages. They include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Don’t be surprised if you pass through these phases as you cope with the disappointing news.

Regular Decision (RD)

  • Here is where you consider your options. You accept on of your Early Action (EA) acceptances, go full speed ahead with Regular Decision and other colleges, and/or give another gallant effort to your unsuccess ED choice.
  • If you received generous financial aid packages from your EA schools, you may decide to wind the process down and accept one of those, To the contrary, you may want to explore all options and commit to spending the balance of December applying Regular Decision.

Ding Analysis: What went wrong?

  • While important not to belabor and regret past actions, it is worthwhile to access the ED/REA process and reflect in order to improve in the next phase. Often nothing went wrong! It was just a competitive field and too few spots to hand out. The college had institutional needs that you perhaps did not fill.

The Deferral Letter

  • Is your ED still your top choice?
    • If so, be sure to supply them with the information they request in order to show your qualifications and demonstrated interest. This may include Fall semester grades, scores, updated accomplishments, perhaps another short essay. Always show positivity and enthusiasm.

Letter of Support

  • This is perhaps the time to submit another, strong letter of recommendation or updated letter or call from your guidance counselor, teacher or coach.

Consider an application review by an admissions expert

  • When your parents receive a medical diagnosis or treatment recommendation, it is not uncommon to seek another expert opinion to determine consensus or options. Similarly, you may wish to seek an expert opinion on ways to bolster your application.

Visit the College

  • In a non-Covid world, a visit to the college to show demonstrated interest would be in order, perhaps even sitting in on a class and speaking with current students.
  • At the very minimum, contact your admissions representative and convey your continued desire to attend. Colleges love enthusiasm from their applicants.

Take Home Message

  • Understanding Your Odds
    • Your deferral means that the college has decided they do not have room for you; they want to let you down easy; or don’t wish to lost ‘political capital’ with your high school. To the contrary, is it may also mean that they like you and feel you’ll be more successful in the Regular Decision round.
  • In summary, to be offered a spot off of a deferral depends on the selectivity of the college. At Harvard or Stanford, your chances will be no higher than 2%, unless you meet some institutional need, such as an athlete, legacy, etc. At other institutions, your odds may be 20% or higher. No matter your profile, it is not a sure bet.


  • Most important is for you not to put your hopes on a “wing and a prayer.” Be realistic and make wise choices!


  • If your ED choice is still your top choice, then consider going “all in,” using all the leverage available to earn a second consideration of your application during RD.


Need help applying to college? Contact Ivy Bound at mrichardson@ivybound.com or text Dr. Richardson at 609.608.6258.