52 Weeks to College: Week 50

Accepted, Deferred, Denied – What to Do Now
December 17, 2021

If you submitted early college applications, some decisions are rolling in now (some won’t come until later). You’re no doubt doing a happy dance if you were accepted, scratching your head if you were deferred, and nursing your wounds if you were denied.

Regardless of your situation, we’ve got tips about what you need to do now. Remember – it isn’t truly over until you’ve arrived at college next fall!



  • Do what you need to do in response to the decisions you receive from the colleges about your early applications.
  • As soon as you’ve heard from your early schools, you will know which, if any, regular applications to submit. Do it now! (Aren’t you glad you had them ready to go?)
  • Check in with your school counselor and your teachers to get anything you need from them before the holiday. Get tips about this in last week's post.

  • Continue doing what it takes to finish the term with great grades.

  • Get all your financial aid forms as close to finished as possible. Delay any that aren’t due before your holiday break so you can stay focused on schoolwork.


  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. See Week 19’s post for tips on how to handle being contacted by colleges.

  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.



1. Share the happy news with your high school counselor and your recommenders and thank them.

2. If you applied EARLY DECISION, then you are bound to accept the college’s offer and you should do the following:

  • Make your enrollment deposit by the stated deadline (usually by January 1).
  • Withdraw your other pending applications and decline any other offers of admission (because Early Decision offers are binding). All you have to do is send a two line email to the admissions office at the other colleges:

    Please withdraw my application from consideration. I was admitted to [name of college] through Early Decision and I will be enrolling there.

    Sign it with your full name, your birth date, and the name of your high school to make sure they withdraw the right application and mark the right offer of admission as “declined.” You must withdraw directly with each individual college. It is not enough to notify your school-based counselor or update your account in Naviance (if your school uses Naviance).
  • Follow through with financial aid deadlines and documentation.
  • Don’t lose steam. You have to graduate, you have to keep up your grades, you still have to stay out of trouble….

3. If you applied EARLY ACTION, then you have some decisions of your own to make because you are not bound to accept the college’s offer.

  • Decide whether to accept the offer now or whether to wait and apply elsewhere and decide after you’ve heard from your other colleges.
  • If you decide to accept the offer, follow the checklist above for Early Decision.
  • If you decide not to accept, then submit your remaining applications and wait.


1. Treat your deferral as a second chance. Being deferred is a bit disappointing, but you haven’t been denied. Instead, you have a second chance to be admitted! Your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. Assuming you have continued on a positive course in the first part of your senior year, you have new information that can and will make the application you've already submitted even better.

2. Update your application in one go. Rather than sending things in dribs and drabs, assemble all your updates into one package of materials and submit them all together with a short and polite cover letter. That way, all the updates together will make a cohesive and persuasive statement about you. (Sending updates individually also makes it more likely that something will be misfiled or lost.) If that college remains your first choice, make sure to reiterate that in your cover letter.

3. Use good judgment about what to send in your update. Here are the five kinds of updates that can help your deferred application (listed in order from most influential to least influential):

  • New (and good) grades
  • New (and higher) test scores (if you managed to take a test this fall and your test scores stack up favorably, send them even if you didn’t send test scores initially)

  • New academic honors or awards
  • Anything that demonstrates your Core Four.
  • Anything you have done that demonstrates interest in that college.
  • A positive word from someone who has a deep and influential connection to the university (major donor, board member, alum, tenured faculty, high-level staff).

You can, of course, also submit other kinds of updates, like additional essays, recommendations, or supplementary materials. But we're not as enthusiastic about encouraging you to submit those, because those kinds of updates get mixed reviews from admissions officers. They tend to be more of the same, and they usually serve only to make your file fatter and more time-consuming for an already harried admissions officer to get through.


1. Wallow in your misery for a short time and then move on. No question that being denied by a college where you applied feels bad. So let yourself feel bad for a little bit. Allow yourself as much as 48 hours to rant, rave, cry, or be grumpy. You just don’t want to get stuck here.

2. Then regroup quickly. Remember life isn’t over and you can go onto a perfectly wonderful future. So dust yourself off and get back in the game. You still have the option of applying to other colleges for their Regular Decision or Rolling deadlines. Sometimes we take a shot and we miss. We all do at one point or another. Don't quit now...tap into your inner resilience and keep going.

3. Do some deep analysis of what went wrong this time. Then set about doing it differently. Was that school a long shot because of your credentials? Do you have newer, better credentials that you can showcase for your next batch of schools? Do you have a more realistic list of schools to pursue? Did you lose steam when you got to the application forms themselves? What can you do better or differently going forward? Do you need to take a gap year to fix bigger problems? Consider both your short-term and long-term options.

Enjoy next week off for the holidays, you deserve a break!

the word.