Let’s start at the beginning. What does it mean when you are put on a waitlist, and what does it mean when you are deferred? What do you do with a waitlist or a deferral decision? We’ll discuss how to keep the odds in your favor.
Deferral vs. waitlist
If you apply for early decision or early action, you may hear that your application has been deferred to the regular decision pool of applicants. In other words, “deferral” means the admissions officers need more time to consider your application. Yale describes the deferral process this way:
The bottom line is that “deferral” does not mean “we need more information” or “something wasn’t good enough.” It means we see a lot of great potential in you and we just need a little more time to sit in that committee room and mull things over. And while we do that, you can start getting excited about your other options and take some time to actually enjoy your senior year.Hannah at Yale Admissions
On the other hand, “waitlist” means that if other students turn down their offers, you are shortlisted to take their spot. During the regular decision round, the colleges send out offers, rejections, and waitlist notifications.
What to do?
For both scenarios, you’ll need to have a strategy. After all, there is something to celebrate: your application was strong enough not to be denied! Therefore, going above and beyond could help you a lot right now. Your next few moves will be important in order to keep the odds in your favor.
One of the most common actions students can take at this stage is a letter of continued interest (or, as some counselors call them, “love letters” to your top schools). You can usually send your letter of continued interest through an application portal in the “additional materials” section. If they don’t seem to have an admissions person to whom you could address the letter, we recommend addressing it to the admissions department or the dean of admissions.
Before you begin drafting your letter, take a look at the college admission website to make sure that they don’t have their own form for you to fill in and will accept a letter. For example, MIT sends out a February Updates & Notes (FUN) Form in which you can report your midyear grades; anything new that has happened or will happen before we review the RA application; and anything about your circumstances that have changed since you submitted your application. Also before you fire off your letter, make sure they will accept it! Some colleges explicitly state that they don’t want/will not receive any additional information. You don’t want to hurt your chances by not respecting their protocols. What’s more, be mindful not to overcommunicate or hassle the admissions office. You don’t want to come off as desperate either!
Writing your love letter
In terms of content, admissions officers our research team spoke to earlier this year recommended the following approaches as options for the letter:
- Make another pitch of yourself; really sell why you would be a great candidate for the school.
- Talk about anything you have done in the last couple of months that you didn’t get to include in your application.
- Talk about anything that your essays didn’t have space for (i.e. if there was an extracurricular you are passionate about or anything of that nature that you think would provide a bigger picture of yourself).
For instance, Georgetown University’s website recommends: “Deferred students are strongly encouraged to maintain high senior year grades and submit any new information, such as standardized test scores, new honors or awards.” As we know, most other colleges seek similar information.
Need a hand?
For more advice and tips on waitlist and deferral decisions and how to strategize for success, reach out to Empowerly. Our experienced college counselors know how to boost your chances of admission to your top schools. Start the conversation today.