Your #1 choice deferred your application to regular decision…
What to do?
1. Try not to despair. No, this isn’t what you were hoping for, but you weren’t denied. The school wants to take a second look and/or needs more time to consider your application.
2. After a few tears, or expletives, let your psyche incubate this new development in the background while you go do something you enjoy.
3. In the next day or so, search the school’s website to see if they provide information about deferral letters from students. Some discourage them, some welcome them, and some provide no information one way or the other. If they have guidelines, prepare to follow them.
4. Compose and mail your deferral letter within a couple days of receiving your deferral notice—time is of the essence.
How do I Write a Deferral Letter?
If the university does entertain deferral letters:
1. Do not whine or question your evaluator’s judgement.
2. Your application may have been faultless in every respect, but with clear eyes, determine if there might have been weaknesses or red flags, especially in your essay(s). Enlist the help of a trusted advisor if necessary.
- a. Was your essay material too common?
- b. Was it trite or trivial?
- c. Did you write about something controversial or inappropriate?
- d. Was your first sentence pedestrian instead of grabby?
- e. Was your tone off—perhaps it was too formal? Or was it too familiar?
- f. As the narrator, did you come off as less than likeable?
- g. Did you reveal enough about who you really are?
- h. Did you mainly write about a time when you were very young, without leaving the reader an impression of your more current, almost-adult self?
- i. Did you rely upon too many abstract ideas and not provide enough concrete examples, scenes, anecdotes?
- j. Were there typos and/or problems with grammar, punctuation, spelling, or word choice.
3. If possible, find a way to correct in your deferral letter any of the above mistakes. If you were too stiff, for example, write a warmer and more conversational letter. Too common a topic? Find a way to surprise the reader with something new and exceptional about you. Too many abstract ideas? Supply a brief but colorful vignette.
4. Inject a huge dose of your personality. Don’t be afraid to be funny, whimsical, charming, and/or eccentric.
5. If something noteworthy has happened in your life since you submitted your application, either update your resume and gussy up your LinkedIn profile (and provide the link in the body of your letter) or find a way to briefly and organically weave that information into your deferral letter. Avoid bragging (see likeability above). But if your profile and accomplishments remain essentially the same, don’t repeat them or strain to make them seem more significant than they are.
6. Presumably, you’ve already asserted in your original application the reasons this school is important to you. There’s no need to reiterate those reasons unless you have something new to say. The college will understand that you’re very much hoping for acceptance—otherwise, why would you be writing this letter?
7. Be brief. A half-page is perfect. A whole page may be okay. More than one page is a no-go.
8. Address your letter to the person who signed your deferral notification.
9. Communicate your seriousness by writing this letter on nice stationery with a matching envelope. If you have nice handwriting, consider putting an actual pen to paper. Make sure to include your name, address, and contact information at the top. DO NOT send an e-mail, a greeting card, or a candygram.
Is there anything else I can do?
- Can you provide the Admissions Committee additional letters of recommendation?
- Would it be possible to visit the school again, and meet face-to-face with a key player in the Admissions Office?
Once you’ve done everything you possibly can to turn your deferral into an acceptance, please, please, please leave it in the hands of fate, and:
Go have some fun, and
enjoy these final months of your senior year!