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Accepted | Deferred | Denied (A Guide)

If you applied in the Early Round of admissions (Early Decision or Early Action), you have probably heard back from your schools by now. If not, you should be hearing very soon.

What should you do if you were:


Congratulations! You did it. Enjoy the rest of senior year.  You now know that you're going to college next year.

If you applied Early Decision, which is binding, it's time to rescind any other applications you may have already submitted. If you haven't submitted any other applications yet, then you're all set. No need to apply anywhere else. It's time to send your deposit to your ED school.

If you applied Early Action, which is non-binding, be happy that you have one or more schools in your back pocket. If you would attend your EA school(s) over any other schools that you haven't submitted yet, there's no reason to submit any more applications. Save the money. You still have a few months to make your final decision. Make sure you are able to afford your EA schools before you stop the entire process.


Obviously, this is a bummer. Remember, don't take this personally. I know it's hard to accept, but there are other great schools out there. Hang in there and keep the faith. The main admissions process has not yet begun. Try to be patient. I know you want this whole thing to be over with already, but you've still got a few weeks to go. 


Welcome to Club Limbo. This is also a bummer - but with a positive spin. In general, it means that the school really liked you, but didn't love you enough to accept you early. It happens. A lot. It means that the school wants to re-look at your application alongside the Regular Decision applicants. 

Here are some common questions:

Will I get "extra credit" for being deferred from the Early Decision round when compared to Regular Decision applicants? Don't count on it. It may vary by school, but most schools don't have a special "deferred" pile of applications that are treated differently. Assume you will be put back in the Regular Decision pool process. 

Do I have a better chance of getting in Regular Decision if I was deferred?Not necessarily. Again, it depends on the school, but most don't necessarily give an edge to deferred packages. In fact, there are some schools that defer every single Early Decision/Action applicant that they don't accept in the early round. In fact, some schools intentionally defer all applicants of alumni even if they have little chance of getting in during the Regular Decision process.

Should I re-do my Common Application essay or other parts of my application? I wouldn't. Unless you put very little effort into the Early Round application (which I doubt), I would stick with what you have. Spend your time with the supplemental essays, which many colleges weigh more heavily than the Common essay.

Should I re-do my target list of schools? Not necessarily. Hopefully, you created a balanced list of schools. Remember, most "early round" schools are reach schools for most students. The competition is brutal. Just because you got lukewarm news is not a reason to panic. Make sure you have some match and safety schools that you love and drive on. Pay attention to the supplemental essays. 

Should I call the school? Yes, but not yet. Do not call to ask why you got deferred or what else you need to do to get accepted. Do not let your parents call on your behalf. Do not allow your parents call and impersonate you (yes, it happens).


  1. Carefully read the deferral letter from the school and see what they recommend you do.
  2. Don't do anything for a few weeks. Knee-jerk reactions rarely end well. The school wants to know that you've spent some time thinking about your deferral and what other schools are on your list. It does not want to hear an emotional plea 24 hours after you got deferred. 
  3. Think hard about whether you still want to go to the school. Maybe something has changed? Maybe you're relieved because you thought it would be too hard anyway? Maybe you're glad that you're not obligated to spend so much money? Maybe another school has caught your eye? Think about. You've been given another chance to reconsider your options.
  4. If you still are 100% gung-ho on the school, reach out by phone and a follow-up email in mid-January. This allows enough time for the emotional dust to settle. It's likely that you won't get through directly to the admissions officer who read your application, so have a script ready to leave a nice voicemail. For example, "Hi, Mrs. Alan. This is Samantha from Richmond H.S. in Indiana. Happy New Year! I just wanted to call to thank you for reviewing my Early Decision application. Even though I was deferred, I wanted to confirm my continued interest in XYZ University. I still believe XYZ University would be the best fit for me and I am committed to accepting an offer in the Regular Decision round if I make it through. I will follow-up with an email updating you on what I've been up to. Please don't hesitate to reply to my email if you have any suggestions. Sincerely, Samantha Jones 2019 (Richmond H.S.)
  5. Send a follow-up email to your Admissions Officer with a similar sentiment. Don't send extra essays, letters of recommendation, or chocolate chip cookies (yes, it happens). Simply state your continued interest in the school and let them know if you've done anything significant in the last few months. Did you complete your Eagle Scout requirement? Did you win a Debate tournament?
  6. If you don't reach out to the school at all, when it comes time to re-evaluate your application, the admissions officer will see zero new information. This is a clear sign that you've moved on and you're no longer that interested in the school.

I hope this has been a helpful guide.

Keep Prepping,

Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.

Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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