The Ivy Coach Daily

December 5, 2020

Avoid Sour Grapes After Deferrals

If Brown was your first choice in November, it will probably still be your first choice a few months later (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

Getting deferred might be the best thing that ever happened to you? It’s not a line you’ll read on the pages of this college admissions blog. Sure, go to a psychodynamic therapist and he or she just might have you convinced that getting deferred or even denied is, in the end, better than getting in — after a round of hypnosis and some deep inhales of lavender. But, come on now. That’s ridiculous. When the objective is to earn admission to the most selective school possible, how can a deferral be best? It sounds like something our current First Lady might say. Nonetheless, there’s an editorial in The Wall Street Journal authored not by Melania Trump — though she might one day plagiarize it — but rather by Claire Votava entitled “Letting Go of My Dream School Made for a Better College Experience” that is actually quite beautiful.

Dartmouth Grad Pens Beautiful Editorial on How Dreams Change

It seems Ms. Votava was deferred from Brown University, which at the time was her dream school. So she ended up applying in the Regular Decision round to 22 other universities. She ultimately did earn admission to Brown after her deferral, but she instead chose to attend Dartmouth College since her dream had, well, changed over the ensuing months. And we get that. Dreams can change. Time can open young people up to new possibilities. But we have a feeling, based on Ms. Votava’s own writing, that she chose not to attend Brown after earning admission because, well, she had sour grapes. Sure, she phrased it nicer than sour grapes. But it sure sounds like sour grapes nonetheless. As she writes, “Three months later, I was accepted to Brown. But the delay had unexpected consequences. My anxiety had led me to apply to 22 other colleges as a contingency plan. As acceptance letters started to come in, I began to feel uneasy about the academic love letters I had sent to Brown’s admissions department. I felt as if I had begged someone to date me, and they had finally let out an exasperated ’fine.’”

It’s Human Nature to Find Happiness But Stay the Course with Your Dream School After a Deferral

Yet we think this is rather silly. Of course Ms. Votava fell in love with Dartmouth; Dartmouth is one of America’s finest academic institutions. And of course she loved attending Dartmouth…who wouldn’t? We sure did! But if she loved Brown all through high school, she probably would have loved attending the school even after her initial deferral. It sounds like she’s just someone who — quite admirably — makes lemonade out of lemons (not that Dartmouth is lemons one bit…but you get the idea). It’s an important life skill. But, come on, she ultimately got into Brown, her dream school for so long. The school didn’t let out an exasperated ’fine’ as she suggests. The school offered her admission just like every other student who gets a ’yes.’ Who knows why she didn’t get in during the Early round? And who cares? She got in later. Our point is that students shouldn’t give up on their Early schools. They shouldn’t put all their eggs in that basket if they should be deferred. Yet they also shouldn’t give up. It’s always good to have an open mind and be able to fall in love with other schools. But don’t develop a case of sour grapes just because it takes a school a little bit longer to say yes because, sometimes, all it takes is a great love letter to get that much anticipated yes.

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