When teens apply to college by the Early Action deadline, they will learn their admissions decisions – either admitted, denied or deferred – by mid-December to mid-January.  For example, Georgia Tech and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have a deadline of October 15, while Stanford, The Ohio State University, University of Michigan and Yale has a November 1 deadline. I typically recommend that my students apply to at least 2-3 colleges for these earlier deadlines. These earlier dates mean that high school seniors must be organized as soon as the school year starts in order to meet these deadlines.


When the decisions are released, teens who met the deadline will learn one of these decisions: “Admitted” – “Denied” – “Deferred”.

Whether a teen is “admitted” or “denied”, their status is clear, i.e. you know where you stand. Getting a “denied” decision can be very disappointing. However, it’s clear that the application to that college is done and there are still plenty of colleges with later Regular Decision deadlines to apply to.


The admissions decision I love to hate is deferred! (Yes, I understand that “hate” is a really strong word so I rarely, if ever, use it.) “Deferred” literally means that a student’s application decision will be made later, along with Regular Decision applications.Although a student submitted their application in October/November, they do not learn the real decision until March/April. The deferred decision is so distasteful because it unnecessarily drags out the stress of admissions, and in some cases, give students a false sense of hope that their application will be admissible.

For many teens, much of the stress with a deferred decision comes from the uncertainty of application strength and what this may suggest for similar colleges. If a teen is deferred by Yale, for example, does it then mean that any selective college should not be considered for the Regular Decision round?

To put this in perspective with numbers . . . For the class of 2023, Yale received about 6,016 early action applications. 794 applicants were offered admissions, which represents a rate of approximately 15%. The remaining applicants were deferred (56%) or denied (30%) or withdrawn (2%). Those 3,300+ deferred applicants will also likely apply to Yale’s crossover colleges like Brown, Columbia, Cornell University, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and University of Pennsylvania.


That’s a hard call for sure.


If a teen is still interested in a college that deferred their application, they may follow-up with a letter stating their continued interest plus NEW information. Information worth sending would include: new honor/award, new leadership position, new, improved test scores that has NOT already been seen by the college. More importantly, teens must stay encouraged and recognize that it’s still early in the admissions process. There are several colleges that will be a great fit, even though they must wait until the spring to learn which colleges!

This essay is adapted from Pamela Ellis’ book What to Know Before They Go: College Edition (Volume 1).


Author: Pamela E

Dr. Pamela has helped thousands of teens attend the college of their choice. She brings her 25 years experience in education to assist families, schools, and employers with college selection, admissions, financial aid, and more. Dr. Pamela holds a PhD from Stanford School of Education, and an MBA from Dartmouth.

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