Last week was a roller coaster ride of emotions for many high school seniors — as those who applied early decision received the first admission letters of the season. While it’s easy to know what to feel and say when receiving an acceptance or rejection letter, knowing what to do when you get a deferral is much more complicated, as applicants were essentially told “maybe, one day,” by their top choice.
“The first thing I tell students that are deferred is try not to take it personally,” says Meg Caddeau, an admissions counselor with the educational consulting firm IvyWise. “They have to step back and look at the numbers. Students who are deferred or rejected are in very good company.”
Caddeau offers these suggestions for students trying to figure out their next steps.
Follow directions: “Each school will have a letter with pretty detailed instructions,” Caddeau notes. “Some colleges will ask students to update the admissions committee and sometimes students will have new information to add. However, if they don’t say that I wouldn’t go back and add anything.”
Show some personality: If you are asked to send a letter updating the admissions committee on your progress, treat it like another opportunity to shine. “I had one student who really infused humor into her letter,” Caddeau recalls. “She wrote something like, ‘As you suggested, I wanted to update you on my progress. While I haven’t found a cure for cancer yet, I was voted most likely to attend Hogwarts by my class.’”
Learn from your mistakes: Throughout her time advising applicants, Caddeau says that sometimes it is clear why a student didn’t make the cut. “We see that they didn’t present themselves as well as they could have,” she notes. “They had boring essays or they were applying to schools that were out of their reach.” In these cases, some self-reflection (and application revisions) are in order. Caddeau urges students to take advantage of the ability to revise their common applications. “They can change their essays, they can make revisions,” she says.
Stand out from the crowd. As they are revising, Caddeau urges students to spotlight their uniqueness. She had one student who neglected to mention her interest in tech. “Most admissions committees don’t see women on computer science teams,” she says.
Explore your options. Most important of all, students should remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to colleges and universities and that most students eventually do find the right fit. “Life is funny that way,” says Caddeau. “You might not realize it, but this is a long journey.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.