Addressing Misconceptions for Deferred and Denied Students

At Ivy Coach, we help deferred and denied students tune up their chances for Regular Decision admission.

As decisions from elite universities roll out, we thought we’d address some common misconceptions swirling through the minds of students who are deferred or denied admission along with their demoralized parents. So here goes! Let’s debunk those commonly held beliefs that are oh so wrong.

Misconception: My child was deferred admission. He’s going to submit an update letter on what he’s been up to since he applied. He’s won a couple of awards that we are definitely going to include and could make all the difference.

Reality: Most students and parents these days know that upon a deferral, the student should submit a Letter of Enthusiasm. They’re absolutely right! But that letter should not be filled with updates and accomplishments. What has a student really achieved in the six weeks since they first applied? And how is boasting about accomplishments going to inspire an admissions officer to want to root for that student? A big reason why the Letters of Enthusiasm of students who first come to Ivy Coach after their deferrals so often work is because they inspire admissions officers to want to go to bat for them. If one admissions officer likes the student and one doesn’t — which is quite probable in the event of a deferral — we need to give fighting words to the admissions officer in their corner. Accomplishments and updates are not fighting words.

Misconception: A Letter of Enthusiasm should be submitted in the New Year. My child should focus on their Regular Decision schools in December and then return their attention to their Early Decision / Early Action school in January.

Reality: Your child’s attention should be focused on both the Early school and the Regular Decision schools right now. Letters of Enthusiasm should be submitted very shortly after notice of the deferral. After all, if one waits until the New Year, one risks admissions officers thinking they have sour grapes and the school is no longer the student’s first choice. Besides, when we work on Letters of Enthusiasm with students, our approach serves as the foundation for how students are going to pivot their applications for Regular Decision admission. Two birds, one stone.

Misconception: I’m a legacy at Harvard. My daughter was deferred. I suspect it was a courtesy deferral but I don’t want my daughter to suspect as much. It has to be a courtesy deferral, right?

Reality: It’s true that most elite universities will defer rather than deny most legacy applicants who do not earn admission. After all, what’s the point of outright rejecting an alumni donor’s child? Let the parent think they’re still considering their child — it’s nothing to them. But the fact is you’re never going to know if your child was deferred as a courtesy or not. So stop guessing. All you can do is give it your best shot with a compelling Letter of Enthusiasm. To give up now is to waste your child’s oh so valuable Early card.

Misconception: Simply by submitting a Letter of Enthusiasm, my child will vastly improve his case for admission to his Early school.

Reality: As a rule of thumb, about 10% of deferred students to elite universities end up earning admission. Over the last near three decades, about 40% of Ivy Coach’s students who first approach us after deferrals end up earning admission. But simply submitting a letter — as, in our experience, about half of all deferred applicants do — doesn’t suffice. It’s all about what goes in that letter. And most students totally waste this unique opportunity.

Misconception: My child was denied in the Early round. We have a feeling she was on the cusp and it could have gone either way.

Reality: Your child was not on the cusp. She was not deferred but denied. This means she over-reached in the Early round and our concern is that her list of schools for Regular Decision isn’t right. We’d want to revise that list so she can start working on the new supplements as soon as possible.

Misconception: I was thinking my son should send in a video of a recent musical performance. And a photo from a recent awards ceremony where he won a very prestigious honor. And a letter from a very influential family friend.

Reality: There is an expression in highly selective college admission that goes, “The thicker the file, the thicker the applicant.” Don’t inundate colleges with superfluous material — material that, by the way, is only going to make him unlikable. You’ve got one chance to make your case in that one letter. Make the most of that opportunity.

Misconception: I’m angry at my daughter’s high school counselor. She led us to believe she would certainly get into her Early school. I’m going to let her know how I feel.

Reality: While your school counselor should never have expressed that your daughter would certainly get in (no one can be certain of anything in elite college admissions), expressing your frustration to a person who can be your child’s greatest advocate is a terrible, no good, very bad, horrible idea.

Misconception: My child was deferred. I’d prefer he cut bait. It’s hopeless.

Reality: That’s ridiculous! With a powerful letter, your son has a real shot of earning admission in the Regular Decision round. If anyone tells you they’ve got a great shot, run, run fast, and run for the hills. But they’ve got a real shot. All we can do at Ivy Coach is give them the best shot possible.

If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s assistance with a Postmortem Strategy Session for deferred or denied students and/or assistance with a Letter of Enthusiasm for deferred students, fill out our free consultation form, indicate whether your child was deferred or denied admission, and we’ll be in touch within the day.

 
 

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