How to Handle Deferrals and Wait Lists

If you are deferred or placed on a wait list, you may feel like you are in college admissions limbo. You haven’t been accepted into your college of choice, but you haven’t exactly been turned down either. Deferrals and wait lists are similar, but they are caused by different processes.

Deferrals are given in cases where the student has applied for early decision or early action. Early decision and early action are when a student applies for admission at an earlier date than usual, normally in November. A decision is then given early to the student on whether or not he or she has been accepted. The difference between the two is that a student must attend the school if accepted under early decision. If accepted under early action, the student still has a choice. If students are given a deferral under either of these, it means they did not get in, but they haven’t been rejected either.

Wait lists are used for normal application processes. Under regular decision, students are placed on wait lists if they haven’t been accepted or rejected. While deferrals and wait lists are somewhat different, they should be dealt with in mostly the same manner. The worst thing you can do is wait for something to happen. You need to take action. Show the school why you belong there. Obviously, they are interested in accepting you, because otherwise they would have rejected you. Your job is to improve your chances without being annoying. First, you need to establish a relationship with someone in the admissions office. This will most likely be the college’s representative for your area. Perhaps they even visited your school. Contact the school to find out who that person is. Try to get that person’s phone number or e-mail address. Then, contact that person and establish a rapport with him or her. Be careful not to be too bothersome.

Next, continue to show the school why you belong their. Let them know about any improvements you have made such has higher test scores, higher grades, or any major awards. Also, try and get another glowing recommendation from someone you haven’t used yet. See if they can say something that is different from your other recommendations. Make yourself stand out.

So, if you find yourself deferred or on a wait list, make sure you do something about it. Odds are that someone who is accepted will end up not attending, and someone else will have to take that spot. It could definitely be you.


Last Updated: June 4, 2019