My child was deferred and is devastated, I don’t know how to help.

WTF? I am sorry for the vulgar acronym, but really, WTF?

I am speechless at the results of this year’s early college admissions cycle.

The number of applications is staggering. The implementation of test-optional policies coupled with the widespread use of Zoom (which expanded outreach by admissions officers) has increased the percentage increase of applications to double digits every year since 2000.

Unsurprisingly, many qualified students are deferred to regular decision pools or even denied admissions outright. Nonetheless, in the past few years, I have been shocked, confused, and a bit frustrated with the system. I am not alone; at the recent conference I attended, prediction of this year’s results was a hot topic.

I am writing this to affirm that your anxiety is understandable. The lack of answers about why your child was deferred or denied is hard to digest. But spending hours trying to determine the answer to this question will not help you or your child. 

The approach I take with my students (and my own children) is to validate their feelings. I let them tell me how much it sucks to be rejected, deferred, or waitlisted (I even let them use certain words I usually don’t – even though they come flying out of my mouth quite often these days.

Then I might say:

Yup, it sucks that the decision you received is not the one you were hoping for, and you deserve a moment to feel what you are feeling. Do not, however, waste your time thinking about what you could have or should have done differently because that is outside your control. We can not turn back time. Your strength, your true triumph, will be in how you move forward. 

So, before I let you know what needs to be done going forward…

Go for your run. 

Listen to your sad playlist. 

Situate yourself with a bowl of ice cream or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. (I prefer peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, but I digress!) Or, hammer the crap out of an ice cream cake. (See my note below about an approach I used with one of my daughters!)

Do whatever it takes to bring you back to a place of calm, and then get started with the following steps:


      1. Ask yourself: Do you still want to attend a school that deferred or waitlisted you? 

    If the answer is yes, as we outline below, there is some work to be done. But, if you were admitted to another school you want to attend, pay your deposit, and then please pull your applications from all other schools.


        1. CHECK YOUR PORTALS!!! 

      Many schools will send you a note in your portal asking if you want to stay in the admissions pool. In fact, some schools even ask you to write a 150-word additional supplement that explains your continued interest. DO NOT WAIT to do this. This is the time to be proactive! Get it done when you are ready to write a well-thought-out response. 


          1. Write a letter of continued interest (LOCI) in other words, a love note. 

        If you have decided to keep your application active, email your admissions officer about anything you have accomplished since submitting your application, including an update on your grades if they have improved. Also, remind them how much you see yourself at their school. This part of the letter requires research, so don’t rush ‒ but don’t wait too long. 

        We suggest sending it within two weeks of the decision notification. Schools need to ensure that students they accept will accept them back, so make the school aware of your continued interest.

        Want some examples? We are happy to send them to you:

        Please send me sample letters!


            1. Stay friendly with your admissions officer.

          This does not mean stalking them, but it means updating them on the amazing things you have done since sending in your application; i.e., you can send them a Happy New Year note (a Happy Groundhog’s Day note – that might catch them off guard!) and include anything else you have achieved since sending them your LOCI. This is no time to be modest. 


              1. Are you ready to consider an Early Decision 2 (ED2) option? 

            If you were deferred from your ED1 school, you are no longer “bound” to that school and have the option to apply ED2 to a different school. But please remember, like ED1, this contract is binding, so if you are admitted to ED2, you will be expected to enroll in that school, forfeiting the option of accepting to your original school if you are admitted later in the process.

            So, are these steps a guarantee of anything? No, but why not take a chance? As hockey great Wayne Gretzky is coined saying (even though he never really did), “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

            I wish I had a crystal ball that allowed me to see into the admissions results for the Class of 2024. I wish I could secure you a spot at the school of your dreams. I wish I had the magic words that make the pain and disappointment of the application process go away. I would be lying if I said I did. 

            The college application process is hard, but it will work out. You will find your way, even if it is down a different track than the one you set out on. That is both the beautiful and funny thing about charting our paths, for they are ours to chart step by step. Be the captain of your ship.

            I will leave you with a short story about one of my daughter’s reveal days.

            On the day the result was going to be loaded up to her portal, I bought her an ice cream cake and a hammer. Confused, she asked me why I got her a hammer. “Simple,” I said. “If you get in, you can celebrate by eating the cake, and if you don’t get the news you want, you can simply smash the heck out of the cake.” 

            Still confused, she replied, “Why would I waste a perfectly good ice cream cake because a school didn’t like my application?”

            So get a cake and a giant fork- because there is no reason to waste a good cake!

            Grab the Official Guide to Talking About College with Your Teenager

            This guide is full of tips and the approach I believe we ALL need when it comes to talking about college as a family. Trust me, when I say I know because I’ve been right where you are, it comes straight from my experiences!