What Does It Mean to Get Deferred from College

What Does It Mean to Get Deferred from College?

Fun fact: The most painful sting in the world comes from the bullet ant. The second most painful sting in the world, however, comes from being deferred from your dream school.

Yup, we know. It’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating. You won’t hear us trying to tell you that “everything happens for a reason,” or anything like that (seriously, has that phrase ever made anyone feel better in the moment?). 

So, go ahead and wallow in self-pity for a bit. But, after that, strengthen your resolve and realize that being deferred from college isn’t the end of the world. 


Getting Deferred from College: What Does It Mean?

One of the main benefits of applying to college early action is that you get to hear back from your top-choice school much sooner than if you had applied regular decision. So, it can be pretty frustrating to find out that you were neither accepted nor rejected but deferred.

What does being deferred from college mean? Put simply, it means that college admissions officers reviewed your college application and ultimately decided that they will consider it again in their regular decision cycle.

a strong applicant

Getting deferred hurts, NGL. It’s like some weird purgatory for college applications. But it’s important to remind yourself that it is NOT a rejection. You’re still in the running for your first-choice school! Think of it this way: If you weren’t a strong applicant, the school would have sent you a rejection letter instead. 

The bottom line? Try to stay positive.

Why Do Colleges Defer Students in the First Place?

Getting deferred from college is extremely common, especially at Ivy League schools that get boatloads of applications. Elite colleges and universities simply don’t have the capacity to admit every student, even if they do meet college GPA requirements and have impressive extracurricular activities. The most prestigious schools in the U.S. receive tens of thousands of applications every year. Heck, Harvard College’s class of 2023 received 43,330 applications

It’s also important to remember that colleges look for different things in their students. They want to build a well-rounded class while maximizing their yield and to achieve their goal, they may strategically defer students to a regular decision cycle before making a final decision. 

Related: What Do Colleges Look for?

Additionally, every school has a different approach to deferrals. For example, Georgetown doesn’t deny any students under their early action cycle and instead chooses to defer all students who aren’t accepted. All this is to say that deferrals happen, and it’s not because you aren’t good enough!

You Got Deferred — What Happens Now?

Alright, you know that being deferred from college isn’t a rejection. But you still got deferred and it sucks. So, what now?

There are a few different ways of handling the situation. Some schools want to see more from you and may ask you to submit additional information, including midyear grades, new awards, activities—that sort of thing. Others may not accept any new materials. 

Here’s what you should do if you get deferred from a college:

  • Find out what the school wants from you.  Now that you aren’t as emotional, take the time to read your deferral letter again. What does the school want from you? If they ask for additional materials, be sure to send them by the requested deadline. It’s also a good idea to check the school’s website for a deferral FAQ page for school-specific tips on how to proceed.
  • Consider writing a deferral letter. Many students choose to write a deferral letter to reaffirm their interest in the school. This is generally OK to do. Just don’t bombard the office with calls, emails, and letters. Otherwise, you may hurt rather than help your chances.

apply for college scholarships

  • Use your time wisely. Apart from sending in requested materials, there is nothing else you can do to sway college admissions officers. Now, redirect your energy into filling out regular decision applications. Find and apply for college scholarships in your spare time. Focus on finishing the year strong.


Deferred But Not Deterred

In case you need reminding: Never tie your self-worth to college acceptance. You are more than just your grades and test scores. Stay positive and keep moving forward!



Image Credits

Source: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

Source: Christopher Hall/Shutterstock

Source: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Start charting your path today.

Connect with real educational and career-related opportunities.

Get Started