What to do if you’re deferred
When you apply early decision or early action, you may not be accepted or rejected. Instead, you might get deferred, which means your application joins the regular admissions process and you won’t get a decision until the spring. This probably means that you met the admissions criteria (those who did not were rejected), but there were not enough slots to go around. Be resilient - you’re still being considered! You can do more than simply mope and wait for a verdict in the spring!
There are steps you should take to improve your chances of being accepted and adapt to this reality.
1. Find out what the admissions office needs from you.
Sometimes the admissions office will invite you to provide more materials. Sometimes they won’t say anything at all about what you might do to improve your chances. In either case, contact the admissions office and find out what information you could provide that would help them make a decision (in your favor, you mean, but don’t make it awkward by saying so). Often, the admissions committee will invite you to submit additional materials to give them further information.
2. Write a letter of continued interest.
This letter should be personal - you are talking to the admissions officer for your region, who will present your updated information to the whole committee. Speak in your own voice and assume the officer wants what’s best for you. State again specific reasons why you and this school are a good fit for each other. Come up with some new distinct aspects of the school that are exciting to you - programs, organizations, classes, etc.. If you come up with new reasons why this school is for you, it will demonstrate the intensity of your commitment. Make the letter short and sweet - thank them for continuing to consider you (be positive and upbeat), express your continued intention to commit to that school, specify the reasons why you want to attend and what you would offer the school, and update your admissions officer about any additional accomplishments since you first applied - semester grades, new positions or activities, achievements, etc.
3. Provide additional letters of recommendation.
When the school invites you to provide additional information, send additional recommendation letters. Select recommenders who know you in other contexts. If you used an English teacher the first time, use a science teacher. If you’re doing amazing work on the newspaper or in the Science Olympiad, ask the adviser to recommend you. If you worked, held an internship, or performed research in a lab, ask that person for a recommendation. Give the admissions committee as holistic a portrait of your good qualities as possible.
4. Keep Studying!
It is absolutely essential that you do not let your grades slip. The college that deferred you, and the others where you applied, will be checking in with your high school counselor, who will be checking in with your teachers. These grade reports can be pivotal.
5. Look on the bright side.
Bear in mind that the competition is more intense during the ED/EA period. The most competitive applicants apply early. You might have a better chance within the regular admissions pool. Also, there are advantages to being deferred. Even though you may still get accepted, you are no longer locked into the ED commitment. Now is the time to explore other schools; you may find one you’re more excited about. You also have a second chance to optimize your profile. Talk to Bentham Admissions and see what they can do to help.