Waitlisted and deferred applications: What should you be doing instead of losing hope?

Updated: May 14

Deferral and waitlist are the two anxious states between college acceptance and rejection. But they are as much a reality for college applicants as a successful admission is. So, it’s important to understand what they are and most importantly how to smartly deal with these situations and emerge victorious. Being waitlisted or deferred shouldn’t mean you become hopeless. In fact, you should consider the possibility of these situations while applying for the colleges, and have a strategy in place. In this blog, we will help you understand what it means to be waitlisted or deferred and how you can strategize your next moves.


Decoding Deferrals


If you have applied to a college via early action or early decision application types, there is a possibility of receiving a deferral notice from the college which clearly means that you will not be considered as an early action or early decision candidate; instead, you must wait until the school starts accepting regular applications.


According to Forbes, out of 6630 early action and decision applicants for the Harvard University in the academic year 2018-19, majority, around 4882 applicants were deferred.

What’s important is to understand that the college hasn’t rejected you which clearly means that it doesn’t think of you as a weak candidate. Deferral can happen when the college gets too many early action/decision applicants. It indicates that the college is taking your application seriously and is taking enough time to review it.


Things to keep in mind after receiving the deferral letter:


- Look at the positive side. A deferred candidate is a regular applicant, which means he is no longer obligated to attend the college, if selected.


- Start making plan B. Sure, you have been deferred by your most preferred college, but it’s not the only college worth considering. Here’s your time to expand your horizon and start applying to other colleges.


- While you wait for the final decision from your dream college, take a few wise steps to help the college decide in your favor. How do you do that?

Ø By approaching the college with a deferral letter to show that you are now a stronger candidate. Find out if the college has a local/regional admission representative. Write an email explaining your stance. Tell them that you are still interested in being a part of the college and that you have what it takes to be accepted.


Ø Keep notifying them of any positive development in your career, for e.g if you have won any significant competition, taken up a temporary job to earn experience, got an increased SAT/ACT score, volunteered for a project etc.


Ø Stay positive and put together an unbeatable application as a regular applicant.


Understanding Wait listing


Now, let’s understand the second situation. Unlike deferral, wait listing means that the college has reviewed your application and decided to put you on hold. You may or may not be considered in the final list of admissions. If you are on a college waitlist, the college will get back to you if one of the accepted applicants decide to turn down the offer or the college opens more seats. But once you got waitlisted, there are a series of immediate steps you need to take:


- Inform the college that you wish to stay on their waitlist and the college still tops your consideration set. Email the university admission office to ask them to keep you on their waitlist. While some colleges ask you to confirm your position on the waitlist by filling a form, others may even ask you to deposit an amount.

- On the other hand, if you are considering other colleges, and do not wish to stay on this college’s waitlist, let them know that as well. This may free up a spot for someone else.


- Contact the admission committee to get clarity on the status of your application and most importantly, understand the chances of your acceptance. While some universities may not be willing to share this information, it’s worth trying, nevertheless.


- Some colleges rank their waitlisted candidates. Students ranked higher will obviously be considered if there are more spots to fill. Again something, you may write the college about. Ask them if there is a ranking criterion; if yes, what rank do you hold. That will give you a fair idea of your chances.


- Most importantly, stay positive and keep your options open. Look around for the second-best option. If that works out for you, it’s not second-best after all. It’s the best.


Waitlisted and deferred candidates are in an understandable state of anxiety. Waiting and wondering for the final decision from the college is not easy. But having the right strategy at place will help strengthen your position and get you into a great college.


Writers Qi is an expert at wait listing and deferral counselling. We can help you understand your options and ace through the deferral and waitlist process. Book a consultation with us to discuss this further.

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