Not to be outpaced by many aspects of the college planning process, deferrals are changing shape. A few years ago, a deferral simply meant the school wanted a little more time to evaluate you against more applicants and see if you can bring anything new to the table in terms of grades, test scores or accomplishments.

While these things are still true in most deferral cases, there is a host of other reasons colleges defer candidates and it’s important to understand them to give yourself the best chance at the fat envelope in your mailbox this spring.

1. Colleges need to manage enrollment. In order to protect their yield (the percentage of accepted students who actually attend the school), colleges look for indications the student will say yes if selected.

·      Are you likely to attend if offered a spot? In non-binding early action programs, colleges know you might have lots of choices come May 1st. Have you given them reason to think they’re your number one?

·      Are you using their school as a “safety”? Some selective schools fear highly qualified candidates might be hoping for a yes from an uber-selective school. Are your stats well above the mid-50% for accepted students? If so, they need to know you're serious about them.

·      Did you apply binding ED somewhere else? Sometimes schools defer candidates to wait out the ED notifications to see who is still around. This is in keeping with the “safety” school explanation above.

·      How will you compare to the regular decision pool? Once the regular decision applications arrive, is your application more or less competitive?

2. Admission reps don’t have time to review all the applications. This is a harsh reality of college admissions today and if schools receive more applications than expected, they simply might not have time to review them all by the early deadline.

3. You are a quality candidate but your application did not stand out in a significant way. This is the most common explanation for deferrals and if you suspect this is you, you’ll need to take action quickly.

So What Can You Do? Follow This 6 Step Approach.

#1:  Call the admission office and ask them if they can provide you information on your deferral. Specifically, ask them WHY you’ve been deferred and what you can do to improve your case. Tell them you want to attend.

#2: Ask your school counselor to call the admission office. Your counselor can ask specifically why you’ve been deferred and can advocate on your behalf.

#3: If the school accepts them, sign up to take or retake subject tests to demonstrate proficiency in areas of strength, particularly if they correspond to your intended major. The last date to register for the January 23rd SAT Subject tests is January 12th.

#4: Email your regional admission representative about your desire to attend. Inform the rep of any new accomplishments, awards, news about yourself, good semester grades, especially in AP classes, updated test scores that didn’t make it on time.

#5: Visit the school if you haven’t yet. Tell the regional representative when you’ll be coming and ask if he or she will meet with you.

#6: Ask another senior year teacher to write a recommendation on your behalf.

Your fate might depend on statistics. The applicant pool might simply be stronger, larger, more geographically tilted toward your region, high school, gender or major. While you cannot control the competition, you can, and you MUST, take action to improve your chances.