taking a gap year

When applying Early Action or Early Decision you might have been expecting one of two decisions—admit or deny. However, there is a third type of decision you might receive—a deferral.

Deferrals can be as upsetting, and sometimes even more so, than being denied. You’ll have to continue to wait for that ultimate decision in the spring; it can feel like being stuck in limbo. If you just received this decision, take a deep breath. Give yourself a moment, or a day, to let your emotions settle. Then, come back here to learn more about what a deferral really means, and how to move forward.

What Is a Deferral?

Now that you’ve had time to process this news, let’s be clear on what a deferral is, and what it isn’t. A deferral means that you haven’t been admitted, but you also haven’t been denied. The school simply needs more time to make a decision on your application, and they want to see your application within the context of their Regular Decision pool. Do not assume this means you’re ultimately going to be denied. At the majority of schools if they know for certain that you have no chance of admission to their school, they will simply go ahead and deny you during this early round. Of course, there is still the chance that you might end up being denied, but don’t make that assumption based on this decision—you could also very well be admitted! Also note that if you applied Early Decision and were deferred, you are no longer bound by the ED agreement.

What to Do If Deferred

Let’s discuss what steps you should take moving forward. First, and most importantly, read the entirety of the letter that was sent or emailed to you. Does it say not to contact them? If so, please don’t. Is it asking for you to do something specific at this stage? Then do so! Was something missing from your application, like test scores or a letter of recommendation? If that’s the case, then send it in immediately. The best thing that you can do here is show them that you can follow directions.

If the letter doesn’t have instructions one way or the other, this is your time to put in a little work. First, continue doing well in senior year. It is now likely that your grades from first semester will be considered as a part of the admissions process. Give them a semester’s worth of work that you’re proud of! In the meantime craft a letter or email to send your admission rep. Let them know that you continue to be interested in their school. Take the time to update them on anything new that you’ve accomplished since submitting your application.

You also have a new opportunity to focus your attention on other schools. Were you considering applying to another school for their ED II round? Now would be the time to complete that application. However, if this wasn’t already in your plan, I wouldn’t recommend making such a large commitment at the last minute. Recognize that you will be bound to this school, if admitted.

Next, ask yourself if your college list still makes sense. Was this the reality check you needed to have an appropriate amount of target and safety schools on your list? Hopefully you’ve continued working on other applications during this time, so you can simply finish up your writing in advance of the upcoming deadlines.

After receiving this decision, you may even decide that you are ready to move on from this school and get excited about others. This can be your opportunity to do so! Remember that this is a process, and as long as you apply broadly and realistically, you’ll have positive decisions coming your way in just a couple of months. Remember that there are many colleges out there that will be a good fit for you. Stay positive and stay the course!


Written by College Coach
College Coach® is the nation’s leading provider of educational advising, offering expert guidance from the best college admissions consultants on the college admissions and finance process. Our goal is to help each student maximize his or her chances of success through services focused on their personal desires, goals, individual strengths, and accomplishments.