As exciting as it is to feel the thrill of a college acceptance, it is equally devastating to receive a denial or deferred decision. A denial into college feels badly, no matter the institution or how excited a student was about attending. When students are told they are not enough, they feel rejected and hurt. However, the decision is final and students move on to navigate through. When a student gets a deferral letter, waitlisting them until a later decision date, there is no finality. Students are often confused about the decision and what it means for them. It also leaves them uncertain about what to do with other school decisions and what they want. They often have to wait months to finally hear the results of the deferral, which leads to anxiety of the unknown and disappointment as peers make their final decisions and commit to their school.
There are a few things that students can do to help if they are in this situation. The first is to immediately email the admissions officer a well written letter. This letter should include why the school is a good fit (be specific – academic program, athletics, etc.) and how the student intends to contribute to their school while they are there. Also, they should let the admissions office know how interested they still are in attending their school. Students should include in this email their current GPA and any other added information, accomplishment, or changes since submitting their application. Students should end the email by thanking the admissions office for a second look at their application and letting them know how much it is appreciated. The next thing they can do is wait until semester grades are completed. They should get a new, updated transcript with a new calculated GPA and have their guidance counselor send it to the school(s) from which they were deferred. Along with this transcript could be a letter from the guidance department stressing the student’s accomplishments and their desire to attend said university. Again, any changes or additions could also be attached as well as another letter of recommendation. Students should not over do it. By sending an initial email and filling out the card or form asking if you are still interested, and then following that up with end of semester grades and any other changes and letters, they have made a statement. Do not send cookies, cute poems or videos. These are a turn off and a no-no.
Many times, parents feel helpless in these situations. However, this is one time there are actually things we can do to help. Is there any legacy at this school that you can explore? Do any of these legacies hold positions in admissions or on the board? Do you know good friends or distant relatives who could give a good testimonial or write on your child’s behalf as an alumni? Do you have connections to professors that students could email or talk to? This is one time when getting your child’s name out there is the right thing to do. Just don’t overdo it. Parents should not call the schools admission office and demand to know why their child was not automatically accepted, nor personally send anything or communicate at all with the school themselves.
However difficult a deferral decision is, it does mean that a student is getting another chance and their application will be getting another look. There is a possibility of still being accepted. I say this lightly knowing that only about 30% of students who opted to remain on waitlists, actually receive admittance. It is important as parents that we explain to our child that they can be hopeful; it is also helpful for them to look at the other schools that they have been accepted to as good options. Go to the accepted student’s day, take another tour, talk to other students who also got admitted. Get excited about these options too because if you don’t get off the waitlist, you will be going somewhere else. I tell my students all the time, do not put all your eggs in one basket. More importantly, do not apply to any schools that you would not be happy to attend because those may be just the ones you will be attending. If you cannot see yourself at each school you applied then you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.
As parents we need to be patient when our child is anxious and upset about the upcoming decision letters. They may lash out or cry quietly to themselves while others will claim they don’t care. However they react, it is a tumultuous time for them. Remind your child that it isn’t the end of the world if they do not get accepted to their first choice school. Things like this will happen to them the rest of their lives. It is OK to feel disappointment and sadness but this decision will not define them for the rest of their lives. For many, it will be the first time they have experienced real rejection that they are not used to. For the most part, my guess is that any school your child has on their list, they will be happy at and they will grow as individuals. The school they attend may end up being the best option, no matter what. For one of my children, who ranked all the colleges he applied to in order of preference in attending, ended choosing school number 3. After being accepted into all the universities he applied to, he learned more and more about the schools and what they had to offer. He attended student acceptance days and really thought about his decision. After all of that, he chose very wisely and for lots of different reasons went with #3. We could not agree more with his decision and believe he is at the best school for him. You just never know what is going to feel right! What might seem like the end of the world may actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.