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What Is a College Deferral?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Receiving a college deferral can occur when a college applicant attempts to gain admission through an early decision pool. While a deferral is not the same thing as a rejection, it does signify that the student was not considered eligible for early admissions decisions, and will be considered as part of the larger general application pool. Getting a college deferral does not always mean that a student will be rejected from the school, but it can be a signal to take action regarding university plans.

Schools that offer early decision programs tend to accept only students that clearly excel in scholastic and extracurricular areas important to the school. While many high-achieving students apply for early admission, many schools will only accept a small portion of these applicants. If a student is considered to be a good candidate for enrollment, but not quite at the standards required for early admission, he or she may receive a formal deferral letter. These letters usually state that, while the school cannot offer the student admission at this time, they have not been rejected and will be considered with other general applicants.

Getting a college deferral can serve as a call to action for some students. Since deferrals are typically sent out in November or December, students may have the opportunity to improve their applications with recent accomplishments. If, for instance, a senior in high school who receives a deferral has won a scholarship, improved his or her grades, or completed some other accomplishment in the interim, this information can be sent to the deferring school as a means of gentle persuasion. Contacting the colleges' admissions department can be a good way to determine how to send supplemental information, and if such supplements are encouraged.

On the other hand, not all students who receive a deferral will be admitted during general admissions. Receiving a college deferral can also be a sign to start examining back-up plans for university. If a student takes a deferral as an opportunity to focus more heavily on impressing second and third choice schools, he or she can establish a strong contingency plan should the deferral lead to a rejection.

While getting a college deferral can be disappointing, confronting the school about their decision may not be a wise course of action. Even if feelings of anger or frustration are warranted, expressing these feelings to the admissions department is unlikely to help a student's chances in the general pool. Remaining polite and professional while offering to submit supplementary information may not guarantee eventual acceptance, but it can serve as a good way to demonstrate a worthy character and mature mind at work.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGEEK. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

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Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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