The hard work of filling out college applications was done last fall; now is the anxious waiting time, looking for a letter or an email to let you know if the hard work paid off. What do you do when that letter finally arrives only to inform that you are neither in nor out—you are deferred or placed on a waiting list? What does that mean and what can you do about it?

Deferment means the college has not made a decision about you yet, and is looking further into your file. Deferments come in two categories: either you applied for early admission and the college has decided to put your application into the general pool, or you applied in the general admissions pool and the college wants more information before making a decision. If you applied for early admission and received a deferment, you are no longer obligated to accept admission if it is granted (as required for early decision admission); you are free to consider offers from other schools. If you applied in the general pool and received a deferment, the school is most likely waiting to see more grades from your senior year or new test scores.

If you are placed on a waiting list it means the college has looked at your application and has placed you “on hold.”  It’s a good idea to find out how many students have been admitted from the school’s waitlist in the past. Sending additional information usually does not change the wait list status. Even though many wait-listed students are admitted, it is not always the case, so seriously consider other offers.

If you are deferred:

  1. Stay in touch with the school. Write a letter or call to say that you are still interested. If the
    school is your first choice, tell them so.
  2. Ask about the deferral process. Are they willing to tell you why you were deferred? Ask if
    there is any new information they would like.
  3. Send in new information, such as top grades in senior classes, a new entrance test score, an
    additional letter of recommendation, new honors, or new extracurricular activities.
  4. Be polite and professional in your inquiries, and do not inundate your admissions
    representative with frequent messages or calls.
    5. Seriously consider your backup schools.

If you are waitlisted:

  1. Keep your grades up and send in your most recent transcript.
  2. Write or call with a brief message each month to let the school know you are still interested
    in attending, especially after May 15 when first deposits are due—it lets them know you
    have not accepted elsewhere. If the school is your first choice, tell them so.
  3. Ask if there is anything you can do to increase your chances.
  4. Seriously consider your backup schools.

While it is frustrating to be deferred or waitlisted, remember that it means you may still have a reasonable chance of admittance. Use your time wisely—earn good grades, stay involved, and consider alternatives.

Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog. Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www. launchphase2.com/ or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students.