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Dear Estelle. Do you have any suggestions for a student who was deferred from an Ivy but would like to do anything possible to be in the running for a spot in next fall’s freshman class? Her grades and test scores are excellent. She’s a diligent, intellectual student and is dedicated to her community service. She’s been accepted to several other schools but is holding out for her dream school. Do you have some advice to keep her focused on her second semester academics and not get too stressed out while waiting to hear from the Ivy and other schools. 

DGR, Parent, Cherry Creek High School

Terrific question. Many Parents have asked me about this issue and I must admit it’s a very sensitive time for those students who have been deferred or rejected from their first choice early action (EA) or early decision (ED) school. The very benefits of “getting in” early and not having to deal with additional applications, feeling great about the acceptance, and enjoying the rest of one’s senior year are gone. Just having “one in the bag” makes the student feel so grounded. However, since the deferral is a reality it’s up to student and family to move on.

Just a review of the admission stats for the Class of 2021 will help us recognize why so many students have been deferred or outright rejected. It is frequently acknowledged that applying ED or EA benefits a student because of fewer applicant numbers and in the case of ED the applicant is completely committed to attending that school. Looking at the numbers will confirm that a lot more students are applying ED or EA and schools are forced to take a specific number of students knowing that the regular decision pool will likely yield many highly qualified students. Looking at the data shows an annual increase in sheer numbers of early applicants.

Let’s look at some of the Ivies.

  • Brown (ED) 3,170 applicants, admitted 695 (22%), 60% deferred. Approximately 60% of class will be admitted regular decision.
  • Dartmouth (ED) 1,999 applicants, admitted 555 (25%) who will make up 47% of the incoming class, legacies are 16%
  • Duke (ED)  3,516 applicants, admitted 861 (24.5%).
  • Harvard (EA) 6,473 applicants, admitted 14.5%
  • Penn (ED). 6,147 applicants, admitted1,354 (22%)
  • Princeton (EA). 5,003 applicants, admitted 15.4%, 16% legacies.
  • Yale (EA). 5,086 applicants, admitted 871 (17%). 53% deferred.

Reviewing the information from these colleges and universities shows a record number of applications over last year, an increase in numbers of racial minority and “diverse” background students, more international students, and first generation. Legacies are still considered at some schools. Early Action being nonbinding, also seems to be a factor contributing to the increase in applications.

It’s a simple fact that most students who apply early to elite colleges are deferred or rejected. Tips for those deferred:

  • Send a note to the admissions office to confirm you are still interested in attending.
  • Most colleges post or send instructions about what they encourage/discourage to send in terms of additional recommendations or supplements.  Read that information!
  • You might want to ask about how many deferred students are accepted from the regular pool. Should I visit the campus? Should I request an interview? Should I retake tests?
  • Spend quality time with your academics. Don’t slack. Most colleges will want to see an updated set of official grades from first semester or first marking period of senior year.
  • Were there any apparent weaknesses in your original application that need addressing?

Generally, be positive. It’s not good to burden yourself with negative recriminations. Competition is so stiff for the few spots at the Ivies and other competitive schools it’s always wise to include a variety of schools in your list so you will not be disappointed when you attend college next fall.

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