Seniors, over the past few months you have been working furiously on your college applications while also maintaining your cornucopia of extracurricular, athletic, and, most importantly, academic responsibilities. You’ve been able to take a deep breath after the passing of November 1st and 15th, and now you’re anxiously looking forward to receiving decisions throughout December.

Typically, colleges use three decision options—admit, deny, or defer—for their early applicants. Regardless of the decision rendered, there are some important steps you should take as you move forward. For one, regardless of the decision you receive, you will want to revisit your list. If you were denied admission from what you considered a “match” or “safety” school, you may want to add more safety schools that are even safer bets to your list. If you were admitted to a reach school, you should consider adding other reach schools. Below you will find steps that you can—and should—take for each type of decision.

Admit  :)

First off, congratulations! You’ve been admitted, and if this was an Early Decision (ED) application, you’re just about done. Be sure to read your letter carefully as there will likely be a specified deadline for ED admits to submit their matriculation deposit. For both ED and Early Action admits, be sure to connect with your counselor and send your updated transcripts (which will eventually have your first semester or second quarter grades) to the college(s).

Deny  :_(

There’s no way around it: denials are about as fun as an icepick lobotomy. Nevertheless, in an effort to glean something from this difficult experience, I’ll reaffirm a suggestion that I made above: Go back to your list. Though the door to this particular college may be closed, you’ve learned something about how you might be evaluated this year. Also, talk with your counselor about what may have been missing from your application, and develop a plan to quickly fill any holes. Finally, you may want to consider applying to Early Decision II schools.

Deferral  : /

Deferrals are weird. They are sort of like finding out that Chipotle got your order slightly wrong but not discovering it until you get home: you’re somewhat pleased that you have a burrito, but you’re disappointed that there’s no guac or cheese. When you receive a deferral, however, I want you to think of it as a just another step of the application process, not positive or negative per se. There’s much that you can—and should—do:

  • Don’t give up hope. Though students who are deferred to the regular applicant pool have a difficult road ahead, most colleges do admit a portion of their initially deferred applicants. At Georgetown University, for instance, deferred students are admitted at a rate of 10 percent–only 6 percentage points lower than their regular decision rate.
  • Reaffirm your interest in the college where you were deferred by sending an email to your region’s admissions officer. Be sure to indicate if that college remains your first choice.
  • If you haven’t already done so, provide an update from that last few months and give a sense of what’s ahead in winter and spring. What are you doing that demonstrates leadership, commitment, scholarship, or diversity? You should still be in the mode of illustrating what makes you unique.

  • As mentioned earlier, revisit your list, and discuss potential changes with your counselor or tutor. You should also consider applying to Early Decision II schools.

No matter the decision you receive, you are learning something about this year’s admissions pool, and it’s important to use this information to your benefit.

Good luck!

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