The University Network

What To Do If You’re Waitlisted Or Deferred By A College — Interview With Gabrielle Dorsey, Executive Director Of Bridges Educational Consulting

TUN sits down with Gabrielle Dorsey, the executive director of Bridges Educational Consulting, to offer tips on what waitlisted or deferred students should do to improve their chances of having their applications accepted.

TUN: Gabrielle, thanks so much for joining us. 

DORSEY: Thank you for having me. 

Can you explain what it means to be waitlisted and what it means to be deferred? What’s the difference between the two?

The main difference between the two is actually timing. 

If a student has applied in one of the early rounds to a school — that would include Early Action, Early Decision or even Restrictive Early Action — there are three potential outcomes: admit, defer or deny. 

Deferred students would be deferred to the Regular Decision pool and re-reviewed again in that round. 

For Regular Decision applicants, there are also three outcomes: admit, waitlist or deny. 

Waitlisted students in the Regular Decision pool are essentially being asked to stand by. The school is still interested, but depending on how their enrollment looks for that year, the school may or may not use students from the waitlist. 

Let’s start with being waitlisted. Do waitlisted students have a legitimate chance of being accepted?

Simply put, yes. However, it is variable. 

Okay, then what should they do after they’re waitlisted to increase their chances of being accepted? Is there anything they can do?

Absolutely. For most universities, the most important thing a student can do after being waitlisted is to accept a place on the waitlist. This is usually a specific question that the university or college will ask the student in the email or in their portal with the school. Students have to accept the spot to continue being considered at that point. 

The second thing that waitlisted students can and should do, if the school allows it, is to submit an update. Many schools will already have a form prepared for students that they can fill out and complete. There are usually some checkboxes. There might be some open space where they can write up something. 

Other schools will accept a full letter called the “update letter.” That update is essentially anything new that the student has done since the time they submitted their application in January. 

So, whether that’s an award that they’ve won, a new leadership role, an internship or really anything new that they probably would have included in their application had it happened beforehand, students should include it in the update letter.  

Most students won’t have any new grades at that point, unless they’re on a quarter system. Grades are not required at that stage. But, if they have a quarter of grades that they can submit and that they feel proud of, some schools will welcome that as well.

So, the most important thing is to follow the instructions that the school has provided. But, definitely accept your place on the waitlist.

Now let’s turn to deferred status. Do students who are deferred have a legitimate chance of being admitted?

Yes, they do. In fact, for many schools, the deferred pool each year is often smaller than the admit and deny pools. Sometimes, it is smaller than the waitlist pools as well. 

So, by deferring students, colleges are saying, “We still want to consider you in Regular Decision.” Deferred students absolutely still have a chance, and their applications will be re-reviewed. 

So, similar to the waitlist students, we would also recommend that deferred students submit an update at that point so that you’re still showing interest in the school. You want to let them know, “Hey, I’m still here. I’m happy to be reviewed again.” And, you want to provide them with any new information that you weren’t able to provide before. 

So, include similar things. Provide any new awards, activities, etc. that you would provide in that update letter. And, take some time to reiterate why the school is a good fit for you. 

For many schools, you could actually choose to send that update letter directly to your regional admissions representative. Or, you could also submit it to the undergraduate admissions email address for that to be added to your file. 

Did we miss anything? Is there anything else that students who’ve been waitlisted or deferred should be aware of?

I think we mostly covered it. But, I would summarize by saying the top things are to accept your place if it’s the waitlist. And, show your continued interest. 

Schools really want to make sure, if they’re considering you again, that you’re a student who is going to come, who is going to enroll at their university. So, showing that interest is very important. 

Thanks, Gabrielle, for joining today. 

Absolutely. Thank you so much. 

This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.