If you know me outside my “College Pete” work persona, you may know that I am a die-hard sports fan, specifically for the Miami Dolphins. I was sitting on my couch with my daughter last Sunday, tirelessly watching (and screaming at the TV) the Miami Dolphins struggle against and lose to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football. She raised a point to me that put the devastating loss into perspective: at the end of the day, I was watching a football game, and there were moments in the game (like Tua’s repetitive incomplete passes) that remained out of my control.
Now you may be reading this email wondering, Peter, how does coping with another Dolphins loss even compare to college admissions for college-bound students? December is notoriously a big college decision season, specifically hearing back about early action or early decision. For many students, the answer is neither admitted nor denied, but rather “deferred”. I want to emphasize that a deferral does not equate to denial or rejection from a college or university. Over the years we have had multiple students go from ‘deferred’ to ‘accepted.’! That said, it does mean that for some, you’ll have to live with the ambiguity of ‘wait and see’, which we know is much easier said than done!
That said, ambiguity is PART of the College Admissions process and part of life. However, that doesn’t mean that it feels fair. Let’s face it – most of us have at some point in our lives felt as if there was a ‘game’ being played around us where we weren’t given the rules to win. We hear this a lot about the college admissions process. As in, ‘it’s just NOT fair.’ For the most part, they’re right. The College Admissions ‘Game’ (which includes both access and affordability) is NOT played on a level playing field. Those students with greater access – to test prep, to good guidance, to an engaged parent who graduated from the college they’d like to go to – do have a leg up on those who don’t. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily smarter or better students, but they do have more resources or leverage and they are utilizing them to be better prepared for this particular process, which ultimately makes them better candidates for admission. And therefore the odds do seem to tip in their favor.
In contrast, seeing the Miami Dolphins lose on Sunday Night Football is entirely fair, even if I don’t like the result. At the end of the day, that’s just an athletic contest, the parameters are much more well-defined and finite, and the result, frankly, will have little impact on my life or that of my fellow Dolfans (unless you’re betting on the games, which I do not).
There are, however, a few reasons to justify the deferral decision and still continue to be proactive. There are many reasons, and rumored reasons, for a ‘deferred decision’. Among them: they want to see your 1st semester grades, perhaps they want you to take the SAT or ACT once more, or they had more applicants than anticipated. Perhaps they were truly overwhelmed by the number of applications received and they didn’t yet review your application. Maybe they’re waiting to see the size of their overall applicant pool to manage their ‘Admit Rate’. Perhaps they are waiting to see who withdraws, now that binding Early Decisions have been received, in order to manage their ‘yield.’ We’ve discussed all of these with our colleagues and with admissions officers directly, and we’ve heard all of these reasons floated. Perhaps we’ll never know about your application specifically, but what we do know is that unlike a rejection, you can actually do something about being ‘deferred’. And doing the right somethings, can help a deferred applicant become an admitted one!
If you have been ‘deferred’ AND it is truly a school that you want to attend, here is your opportunity to communicate with your admissions officer (yes, you can actually talk to them), demonstrate some interest and possibly move the needle in your direction! Granted, you should have been corresponding with them already – either way, now is an opportunity. If a school shares specific instructions on next steps to address a deferral, such as sending updated test scores or a 1st semester grade report, be sure to comply as soon as you can. And if there is anything new in your life since your application was submitted, perhaps an award, or new leadership position, or a new job, be sure to let them know.
Unlike admissions decisions, financial aid offers are far less final, and therefore you have more room to maneuver, to appeal, even (gasp!) negotiate. Notice the language difference: admissions decisions, and financial aid offers. The latter can be countered, as in a counter-offer or appeal. Oftentimes there are very good reasons to appeal a financial aid offer, such as a recent job loss, a medical issue that results in high expense or time away from work (lost wages), a natural disaster, or some other event that has a significant financial impact. I have written about financial aid appeals before, and surely next spring I’ll have an update for you on that topic.
With admissions decisions, at the end of the day you’re either admitted or denied. There is no in between, no gray area (OK, you could get wait listed but that’s a Spring email). Appealing admissions decisions is largely a waste of time unless you have unique circumstances. Becoming a National Merit Semi-Finalist, winning the Spelling Bee, or earning a First Place Scholastic Art & Writing Award are all noteworthy and important to communicate when it comes to a deferral, but they will not likely change the decision from denial to admit. To move that needle, you will have to demonstrate something egregious, such as a legitimate mistake in the communication of your transcript. I suggest that you put that ‘appeal’ energy into communicating your value and interest to the next school(s) on your list!
On a less dismal note than deferrals, I want to recognize YCC’s Class of 2023 for earning acceptance into the following schools via Early Action, Early Decision, or Rolling Admission (so far). While we may have assisted many of these students, all credit goes to them for their success. Congratulations!:
Arizona State University, Babson College, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dayton University, Drexel University, Elon University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, FAU-Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida Southern College, Florida State University, Indiana University, Lynn University, Marist College, Michigan State University, Nova Southeastern University, Ohio State University, University of Arizona, University of Central Florida, University of Delaware, University of Kansas, University of Pennsylvania, University of South Florida
At the end of the day, don’t let deferrals define your December. You (hopefully) will get admitted into college and receive (potentially with some assistance) a much desired financial aid package. That’s my wish for you and your family for the Holidays and New Year.