I've Been Deferred. Now What?
As colleges release early action decisions this winter, you may be deferred. While this is not your desired outcome, let's be very clear. A deferral is NOT a denial. A deferral means the college likes what they see, but they want to see more. Sometimes more means more from you- fall grades, an additional essay, a letter of continued interest. Most of the time, it means they want to see what the rest of the applicant pool looks like since the college's main job is building a well-rounded class. They want to ensure that their institutional priorities are being met, and most of the time, those priorities are kept from the public. They may include things like geography, gender or financial balance, or specific programs or populations the college is trying to grow.
If you have been deferred, the first thing you should do is read the letter. Does the college ask for anything specific from you, and if so, what is the deadline to complete this task? You should follow the directions and do exactly what the college asks for. If they ask for you to put something in your status portal, that is where any/all updates should be made. They usually want to see your first semester grades (usually through a mid-year report or your self-reported academic record). You can also give an update on any extracurricular accomplishments you've had since you submitted your application.
If they don't have explicit instructions, sending your admissions counselor a letter of continued interest is a good idea. This letter should be short (a paragraph at most), letting the college know they are still your first choice. You can give them a brief update on your first semester and any interactions you've had with the school since your initial application (if you visited, learned something during the interview process, met with an admissions counselor at an event, etc.).
If you applied for Early Action and the school offers Early Decision 2, you could look into switching plans. Early Decision is binding, so you need to know 100% that this is the school for you and that it makes the most sense to your family financially.
Finally, you may need to re-evaluate your college list. While a deferral isn't a denial, it can lead to one later. If you haven't been admitted to any schools yet, it may be good to consider one of the 1100+ colleges that offer rolling admissions. Rolling admissions schools often have high admit rates, and they typically don't require essays or recommendation letters. Many of these schools offer generous merit aid, and some even waive the application fee. They can also ease your fears if you are worried about having an option (or options) for college.
Curious when you will hear back from your Early Action/Early Decision colleges? Our friends at College Kickstart have a great post with notification dates here.