VICKI BEAM: December news can be good — or confusing

Vicki L. Beam

December brings great news to a lot of high school seniors, while others are receiving somewhat confusing news.

The admissions department for many colleges sent out the results to those students who applied through early-decision (ED) or early-action (EA) throughout the month, while others will be sending their decisions later. With early decision and early action, there are three typical outcomes — admitted, denied or deferred.

The first two actions are pretty easy to understand — you know for sure whether you have been accepted or not. The third option, admissions deferral, means that your application will be reconsidered and a decision will be given at a later date. Some students who are deferred immediately consider themselves rejected. While disappointment may be a reasonable reaction, being objective and constructive can help you make the best of this news.

A deferral means that things aren’t over yet. The school wasn’t able to accept you in this round — but you haven’t been rejected either. Your application will be reevaluated in the pool of regular decision applications, this time with the inclusion of your achievements and report card from senior year. This gives you an opportunity to send additional information to strengthen your application in the regular round of applications. You’ll hear back from the college on the same date as the regular decision applicants, around March or April — check with your school to find out the date.

Why a deferral? The reasons for deferral will differ from student to student. Perhaps your college received many strong applications and can only consider so many for an early decision. Or, the admissions board simply wants to wait until they can see additional grades or test scores from you.

"Waitlisted" usually differs from "deferral" in that prospective students who are placed on a waitlist have reached the end of the admissions process and are likely not going to be reconsidered at a later date. Instead, the college has already decided that the student could be admitted, but only if some of its accepted students decide not to enroll. These vacancies may or may not materialize, so a student on a waitlist may want to think about other options. Unfortunately, the final decision for a student being waitlisted may not occur until June or later.

If you applied during the regular admission cycle and have been deferred, then the school probably wants more information before they make a final admissions decision — such as senior year final grades or additional test scores. The sooner you can get it to them, the more likely you’ll get a final answer sooner rather than later.

For those of you who have been deferred, your counselor can also help you figure out the steps you should take to improve your application when it's reconsidered later on. This information might be included in the deferral letter. Your counselor also can call the admissions office to learn more about the college's decision.

Here are some things deferred applicants should consider to help improve the likelihood of admission and maximize their college options:

1. First, determine if the college is still your top choice. Take time to consider whether or not this college remains at the top of your list, or if you want to focus your energy on applying to other schools. Make sure you are applying to the right mix of schools, including a sufficient number of colleges where there is a good or better likelihood that you will be offered admission. Application deadlines are important to review — it may be too late to be considered for Fall admission at some schools.

2. Carefully follow directions from the admissions department. You may be asked to submit mid-year grades, additional test scores, recommendations, or other information. Students should determine what the college requires, what is appropriate to provide, and make sure to follow instructions. Share updated information and new accomplishments that may strengthen your application. However, if a college explicitly states that deferred students should not submit additional application materials, then do not send in anything else. Students can ruin their chances of acceptance by not following the college’s directions.

3. Don’t ease up on your studies. Many colleges give strong consideration to first semester grades from your senior year. Now is not the time to let senioritis affect you!

4. Look for other opportunities to confirm your interest and improve your candidacy such as requesting an interview, visiting campus, speaking with a professor, communicating with the regional admissions representative or reconnecting with your alumni interviewer.

5. Stay involved. Continue to be active in clubs, sports and other activities that you have been involved with. Colleges also encourage meaningful volunteering — there are many opportunities in the area to volunteer!

Take advantage of Michigan College Planning’s College Planning workshop to learn more about the application process and how to become what colleges want. Visit or locations and dates. The workshops are informative and include steps you can take right now to assure you understand the cost of attendance and how you can afford college. If you are unable to attend a workshop, feel free to call Michigan College Planning with your questions.

Vicki L. Beam is a college planner at Michigan College Planning located in Traverse City. She encourages questions and comments about future columns. Contact Michigan College Planning at (231)947-0203, by email at and at

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