Why Do Colleges Defer Students?

It’s that time of year. The responses to your early action and early decision college applications are starting to roll in. While you are hoping for a yes, you open the envelope and see that you have been deferred. Your heart sinks and you wonder why you were deferred. It’s not a yes, it’s not a no; rather, you’re in limbo – and it’s frustrating to say the least. The waiting continues for another few months. But know that you are far from alone. Other students are suffering right along with you. So, let’s dive into exactly what it means to be deferred by a college and why you may have been deferred.

What Does Getting Deferred by a College Mean?

Deferrals typically happen when a student either applies early action or early decision to a college or university. When you apply early action early or decision, you are applying earlier than the regular decision pool of applicants. The benefit to applying early is that you can learn whether or not you have been accepted much sooner than the typical spring admissions decisions – unless, of course, you have been deferred. If you receive a deferral decision, it doesn’t mean that you have been rejected. It means that there may have been a very competitive pool of early action/decision applicants and that you didn’t make the cut in the first round of decision making. There is still hope. You get another shot at acceptance as the admissions officers consider your application again along with the regular applicant pool. You will find out whether you have been accepted or not when the college makes their regular application decisions.

One important thing to note if you applied early decision and you were deferred: you are no longer in a binding agreement if you get accepted in the regular decision pool. You can still decide not to attend that college or university.

So that’s what a deferral means – they are deferring you from that early pool of applicants into the regular decision pool of applicants.

Why You May Have Been Deferred

There are various reasons why a college may have deferred a student, such as:

• The college received an overwhelming amount of applications.
This is what happened at the University of Michigan several years ago. The school received so many applications (Upwards of 80,000+) in the early action pool that they could not review them all. So, they had no choice but to defer many applicants into the regular decision pool. One of our students, who was an excellent student, got deferred and then was accepted in the regular decision round.

The student did not necessarily meet the criteria within the early application pool to warrant an acceptance.
The college’s early applicant pool may have been very competitive and the college or university determined that student did not quite meet the criteria amongst all of the early applicant applications so it moved the student to the regular decision pool for another chance at admission.

Rather than reject the student, the school automatically deferred them.
There are some schools, such as Georgetown (at least in years past) where if you do not get accepted in the early action pool you are automatically deferred. There are some concerns around this system. Being deferred still gives students hope that they are going to get accepted. Certainly, a student may very well get accepted if they get deferred into the regular decision pool, but acceptance at extremely selective colleges, such as Georgetown, is difficult no matter how good of a student you are. By deferring everybody into the regular decision pool these schools give hope to some students that are never going to get accepted.

What you can do if you are deferred

If you have been deferred, you can use this to your advantage by letting them know if you have any updates to your activities, grades or possibly test scores. This can help boost your application in the regular decision round. Some schools welcome this information and it allows you to express what has transpired since you submitted your application. There are some schools that may not want you to do so or may only want some updated information. They either will express this in their deferral communication or you can call the school and ask.

Here are some more of our blogs on being deferred that you might want to read:

College Admissions Deferred vs. Waitlist
Deferred from College: What to Do Now
What Does It Mean to Get Deferred from a College?

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