How to Turn Your Ivy League Deferral Into An Acceptance

December 18, 2017

As the early decision results come flooding in, there is a mixture of feelings in the air. If you were deferred and are worried about what to do next we have this to say: don’t panic! 

While some settle in for Christmas with their acceptance letter in hand, others have to wait just a tiny bit longer after finding out they have been deferred to regular decision. Deferrals from early decision are very common and they certainly don’t mean you won’t get into that school. However, there are steps you can take to ensure a place at your dream school this Fall. We have compiled the advice from some of our top Admits who were deferred from universities such as Yale and Cornell but decided to take action and ensure their regular decision place. Take it from our Admits and secure your future college!

1. Taking Risks

Student advice from Afternoontea, UPenn ‘17:

“I applied to several schools early action, but none early decision because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford it. When I found that that I was deferred from Georgetown University, I decided to make a much more riskier essay my personal statement. I also forwarded this essay to Georgetown,. At this time I also got a professor from the college I was taking classes at at the time to rewrite me another letter of recommendation. I had this letter sent out to my additional schools, and Georgetown. I also sent Georgetown an updated resume. In the end, I got into Georgetown as well as other very selective schools.”

Unlock her full Penn profile to learn more about her application experience!

2. Sending Additional Materials

Student advice from JFie023, Harvard ‘17:


“If you are deferred after early admission (I was deferred to Harvard under early action before being admitted under regular) you should definitely send more material to the admissions office. An easy recommendation is to send one or two more letters of recommendations from teachers who will write good letters while also being honest. I’ve always felt that teachers who are honest end up writing the best recommendation letters; if they enjoyed having you as a student, they will make that clear to the reader. Another tactic which can be helpful would be to include updates of awards, achievements or titles you may win after sending in your application. Often times, you might obtain that academic award, debate title or community service recognition after you send in your application. If it’s something that is unique and important, it will in no way hurt your application and it will demonstrate you’re not slacking now that your college decisions are out. In general, it is good to send some additional information after getting deferred as it shows you are still interested in that institution and want to get in despite not getting via early action.”

Unlock his full Harvard application file to learn more about his application experience.

3. Choose Which School to Focus On

Student Advice from KatieS, Cornell ‘17:

“So I was waitlisted at both Cornell and Rice, and in the meantime committed to Carnegie Mellon. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue both Cornell and Rice and feel honest/put my whole effort into both, so I focused on Cornell. After being waitlisted there, I emailed the admissions office twice with updates on my life/achievements since I had applied, and made sure to state that Cornell was my first choice and that I would accept their offer if I got off the waitlist. I wasn’t really expecting to get off it, but then I received a call in mid-May and needless to say I was thrilled! I think that contacting the office enough to emphasize how much you want to go there, along with adding updates to make yourself seem like an impressive candidate, is definitely a good idea, just as long as you don’t contact them too much and become an annoyance. Like I said, I didn’t focus on Rice at all, so I wasn’t really surprised when I got an email from them during the summer stating that there was no more room for me in their class and that I was rejected. I was fine with it, though, since I already knew I was going to Cornell!”

Unlock her full Cornell profile to read her application essays and advice!

4. Be Careful What You Send In


Student advice from JohnSing, UPenn ‘18:

“After being deferred I sent two additional recommendation letters, and a letter expressing my continued interest and updating the admissions office with new information. The letter also had some information about who I was—things that weren’t on the application. Just about my personality. The writing wasn’t bragging… it was meant to make me seem likable. In reality I probably send WAYYYY too many additions things. Colleges say they don’t like when you do this. Perhaps the rec letters I send really helped? (I think they might have).”

Unlock his full Penn profile to read his application essays and advice!

5. Be Judicious about the Additional Materials You Send In

Student advice from DLKW, Dartmouth ‘20:

“I was waitlisted/deferred at two schools, both of which I was ultimately denied from. For one my schools, I submitted some more awards that I did not list on my application awards section. In retrospect, I do not think that this was a very good idea as these awards were all awards from my school (i.e. not national or even regional level awards/recognition) and probably were very meager accomplishments considering the elite level of the school I was deferred from. I also hand-wrote a card to my admissions officer at the school I was deferred from (obviously, this did not turn out in my favor or help my case that much)! The second school I was waitlisted at, I only responded to their waitlist question (the “do you wish to stay on our waitlist” option) and I wrote a really brief generic email to the admissions office essentially saying that I had nothing new to report (which I did not….) and that I continued to uphold my very good academic record (this may have been a very slight stretch since I was nearing the end of senior year).”

Unlock her Dartmouth profile to see his full application essays and advice.


Applying to college next year?
View the application files, essays and advice of accepted students.

Look over your early application and see how you can better improve your essays and additional materials. Remember, while sending in additional materials can be helpful, do not over do it and only do it if you have something new to add to your early application. For more application advice, try our Advice Search to get your application questions answered. 

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Accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, UPenn, UToronto, McGill, McMaster

Hey Y'all! I'm a prospective Neuroscience major at Harvard. In my free time, I build computers and recreate Gordon Ramsay's signature recipes (or at least I try to).

Accepted to Harvard, Notre Dame, West Point, Berklee, U of Minnesota, SD State, Creighton , Augie

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