What should my daughter do if she’s deferred from her EA/ED schools?

By Maxine Seya

“What should my daughter do if she gets deferred from her Early Action / Early Decision schools?”

– Jim, a parent of a college applicant

First, congrats to your daughter on making the choice to apply for college and finding ones worthy of an early application. Given how uncertain most people are about the availability of college funding, the structure of instruction, and the protocol of application review amidst Covid, it’s a big accomplishment to have made it this far!

If she gets deferred from their Early Action or Early Decision school, don’t fret.

But first, for those who are new to this:

Early Application Types: EA, ED I, REA, ED II

  • Early Action (EA): You apply to college earlier than the regular deadline, typically in November. You receive a decision in December, almost 3 months earlier than the typical March/April deadline. If accepted, you are not required to accept their offer. There’s no limit to how many Early Action schools you can apply to.
  • Early Decision I (ED I): It’s just like Early Action (November submission, December decision), except you must accept the offer if accepted and withdraw all other applications. The downside to Early Decision is that applicants cannot compare financial aid packages. You can only apply to one school Early Decision.
  • Restrictive Early Action (REA): Same deadlines as the two above, but some schools, like Harvard, have rules restricting you from simultaneously applying early to other U.S. private schools. More on that here. With REA, you’re not obligated to accept the admissions offer.
  • Early Decision II (ED II): Just like Early Decision in all ways except the submission deadline is typically January with a decision in February.

How can colleges respond?

When your daughter hears back from their early round schools, she’ll probably get accepted, deferred, or denied. Accepted and denied are self-explanatory. Deferred means her application will be added to the pile of Regular Decision applications and compared among those candidates. You won’t hear back until usually March or April.

What to do if your student is deferred?

If she’s deferred but is still very interested in attending that school, she can do a few things:

  1. Keep up grades and extracurricular accomplishments. Evidence of senior slide or senioritis will only make your student stand out in a bad way. Continuing to strive for excellence will come in handy for the second point.
  2. Communicate periodically with the admissions officer. What should your daughter say? Write a letter, often called the Letter of Continued Interest, with updates on new accomplishments. Did your student win an award? A competition? Did she start a new initiative or experience something that would interest the school when considering its values? This is why it’s important to continue striving for excellence in academics and extracurriculars. If not, she will have nothing worthy to update the admissions team on. If she wasn’t admissible with the existing stats in November, why would an admissions officer think differently in the spring if nothing about her profile has changed and even more qualified candidates have applied?
  3. Continue to ask questions about the school, by phone or by email. Admissions officers gauge interest by the number of times your student asks questions and the quality of those questions.

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.