College admissions season is well under way. By now, hopeful seniors are waiting to hear back from colleges they applied to early action or early decision. These tense times will soon be greeted by the joyous celebrations that come with acceptance or the disappointment of being rejected. But there is a third option, one that leaves room for confusion, mixed emotions and all around ambiguity: college deferrals. In this post we will discuss what a college deferral means, why deferrals occur, deferrals during COVID and what to do in the meantime.

College Deferrals In A Nutshell

Deferrals are by no means the end of the world. Rather, think of it as a second chance at being admitted to the college of your choice. Typically being deferred from early rounds can be an advantage. It gives you an opportunity to submit more recent grades, accomplishments, summer extracurriculars, and a chance to overall boost your application before the admissions committee looks at it one last time.


To a hopeful applicant that is essentially being put on hold, why is probably the burning question. While, yes some colleges may defer your application simply for a second look or because they think your application has potential to improve over the coming months, there are other reasons. At highly competitive schools for example, students are deferred more often than not. Yale typically defers half of their EA pool and Georgetown defers everyone that didn’t make the initial cut. While these are just some examples of reasons schools defer, this can change from school to school, and even year to year. 

COVID Changes Everything:

While of course nobody knows how college admission decisions are going to work in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is fair to speculate that deferral rates are going to see a sharp increase this 2020-21 admission season. Given that deferrals are handed out to students to give them a second chance, I personally think that colleges are going to want to see how things work out in the spring. With all the uncertainty in the world, admission officers want to see their applicants in a traditional school setting before having to determine acceptance to the applicant’s school of choice. I think this will, as per usual, be more typical of highly competitive schools to defer more applicants from the early action round rather than denying them admission to their school right away. However, as is the motto of 2020, “Everything is subject to change.”

What To Do From Here?

Wait. While this might not be the advice an applicant wants, it is truly all one can do in the meantime. Try to make your application stronger if you can, but for now all you can do is wait because at this point the decision is out of your hands. Shift your focus to something else: a new hobby, family and friends, school events, sports, whatever will get your mind off of waiting in a healthy way. While you wait to hear about the final decision on your application all you can really do is trust that you turned in the best application possible.