The college application process is taxing for students and families alike, particularly if an applicant has compiled their materials and put in the effort in the fall to apply for Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). Typically, students who choose this route are applying to their dream school or a school at the top of their list that they ardently hope to attend. After submitting their applications and anxiously awaiting a response, many students reach the December decision date to receive an unwanted response — a deferral.
The combination of the work an applicant has put into their application and the dire hopes of attending the particular school they applied to, ED or EA, can magnify the sting of a deferral. However, it is necessary to remember that a deferral does not mean that a student’s educational journey is over, nor does it mean that their hopes of attending the school are dashed.
Each year, a record-breaking number of students apply to top schools like Harvard, NYU, and Duke, and the ED or EA applicant pool tends to be even more competitive for students applying to competitive schools like these. A deferral indicates that an applicant was strong enough to progress into the next consideration phase but was not accepted in the early round of applications.
If deferred, the application moves into the pool of Regular Decision applications and students who applied early are no longer bound to attend that school if admitted. On the one hand, this allows students to put additional consideration into what they want in a school. When deferred, students should ask themselves, “do I still want to pursue the school I applied to ED or EA, or have I learned something new about another school on my list that increased my interest?”
On the other hand, if a student is still determined to attend their ED or EA school, here are three steps they can take to boost their chances of acceptance:
Letters of continued interest share any updates to a student’s application with the admissions office and reiterate the value they would add to the campus community. These letters are short and succinct (typically no more than one page) but should still meaningfully and compellingly convey the student’s new achievements and interest in the school.
Like college essays, these letters should capture the student’s voice and personality, so students should embrace their quirkiness and uniqueness when writing. The goal is to stand out and give the admissions office a lasting impression.
Finally, keep in mind that yield rate is an essential metric that colleges consider. It will reflect well on a student’s application to communicate that if accepted, they will attend.
Students should send letters of continued interest to the admissions offices of their top schools sooner rather than later. Students who do not send these letters promptly indicate that they are not committed to the school or are not interested in continuing the application process with them.
Many students assume that when they press “submit” on their ED and EA applications, they absolve themselves from worrying about grades. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
By improving their GPA and producing high-quality academic work, students can demonstrate to colleges that they are motivated and can excel academically at the university level. Students can also consider re-taking the ACT or SAT if they are unsatisfied with the score they submitted to the school. Students who successfully raise their test scores or GPA after submitting their ED or EA application should include this information in their letter of continued interest.
The strongest supplemental essays show the applicant has researched the school and programs of their choice. As students finish up and review their applications, they should evaluate what they can do differently in their activities list or essays — using this as a time to quantify their accomplishments and show, rather than tell, their achievements. Continuous editing and revision will also highlight spelling or grammatical errors they missed the first time.
With the exception of writing a letter of continued interest, students who were rejected from a top school during the early round should also follow the above steps. Rejected applicants have the benefit of hindsight; they should read through their Common Application and supplemental essays from the ED and EA round and evaluate how they can revise the rest of their applications to highlight their strengths better.
In addition to Regular Decision deadlines, students should also keep track of Early Decision II dates. The most important dates to note are typically Jan. 1, 5, and 15. Before students finalize their Regular Decision or Early Decision II applications, they should check out Command Education’s tips for finalizing their applications.
Taking these steps will set students up for success on their journey to college acceptance. Command Education’s expert college admissions consultants are available to guide students through the process and give them the best shot at acceptance to their dream schools.