Deferral Strategies – Do’s and Don’ts

At this time of year, many highly-qualified students are bemoaning the fact that their dream schools have deferred them from Early admission into the Regular admission pools. This does not mean that an application is “dead.” Intelligent strategy can enhance a worthy applicant’s chance of admission.

The first part of an effective deferral strategy is timing. There is a preferred time for connecting with university admissions offices. Too early means that the student’s effort will be overlooked. Too late means that the effort will not be considered.

Choosing when to communicate with admissions offices involves understanding the timing of their duties. In the first half of January, admissions representatives are furiously reviewing Regular action candidates and conducting subcommittee meetings. Beginning in March, they are “in the bunker” making final class selections in full committee meetings. As a result, the best time to communicate with a favorite college is during the last half of January or first week of February.

With whom should you communicate? If possible, connect directly with the admissions representative covering your geographic region. Many websites have that information online. If the contact information is not available, try calling the admissions office and asking for it. Otherwise, send an e-mail, letter or overnight package to the admissions office generally, being sure to indicate your high school and the city and state in which you live.

What do they want to see? The first imperative is to restate that their college is your first choice university. Be clear, but don’t fawn over them. The second goal is to show a continued interest in your most favored areas. This is not the time to fabricate new interests. Rather, this is the time to update them on your most recent grades and your preferred activities, demonstrating further depth and initiative.

In reaching out, be brief. A good deferral update should not exceed 3 to 5 sentences. It should be a single paragraph, not a novel. You want to give admissions representatives extra information, not extra work.

Also, recognize that everything you send, and every communication you make, is entered in a log. They know if you or your parents call, and badgering can irritate busy admissions officers. You should not try to woo them with gifts, nor attempt to have alumni wedge new recommendations through backdoor channels. If you wish them to respect you, then you must respect them.

Finally, recognize that your high school counselor can provide additional support for your candidacy. This is the time of year when counselors make phone calls and write e-mails to colleges on behalf of their students. Meet with your counselor, give an update on your status and your activities, and respectfully ask if he or she would make a special effort to support your candidacy to your first-choice school.

Deferral may be disappointing, but it is not the end of the world, nor is it the end of the admissions effort. They are keeping your candidacy alive for a reason. Show them you care, and they may just show you the love.