Waitlisted? No Brags. No Updates. Learn About Ivy Coach's Letter of Continued Interest

The Ivy Coach Daily

February 5, 2024

Deferred vs. Waitlisted: What is the difference?

A dog looks out a window with overlayed text that reads: "Deferred?!? Waitlisted?!? You need Ivy Coach's help with a Letter of Continued Interest. No updates. No brags. No ordinary letter."
Ivy Coach helps deferred and waitlisted applicants optimize their cases for admission.

When students open up their college admissions decisions, they’re unlikely to hope for a deferral or a waitlisting. Neither decision is definitive — it’s neither an acceptance nor a denial. But while it’s, of course, much better to get that acceptance right off the bat, deferred and waitlisted applicants still have a genuine shot of earning admission. In most instances, to cut bait is the equivalent of competing in an Ironman and walking off the course in the last few miles of the run — well after the swim and bike.

What A Deferred Decision Means in College Admissions

When a student applies to a college through either Early Action or Early Decision, their application can be accepted, deferred, or denied.

If accepted to a school they applied to Early Decision, the student is bound to attend, and their admissions process is over. If accepted to a school they applied to Early Action, the student is not bound to attend and has until Candidates Reply Date, or May 1st, to decide where they will be enrolling.

If denied, they no longer have a shot of earning admission to the college to which they applied Early Decision or Early Action that year (with exceptions like the University of California schools, which allow an appeal).

If deferred to a school they applied to Early Action or Early Decision, their application is pushed to Regular Decision. A final decision on their application will be released in conjunction with Regular Decision notifications (typically at the end of March or early April).

Why Do Colleges Defer Students?

Colleges defer students because they have yet to determine their institutional needs for their incoming first-year class. In short, colleges are insecure during the Early Action/Early Decision round. They don’t know if they will get a large Regular Decision applicant pool. They don’t know if they will get a competitive Regular Decision applicant pool. As such, they want to keep some of their Early applicants in play if they later wish to fill seats in their incoming class.

What Percentage of Deferred Students Get Accepted?

Across all highly selective colleges, about 10% of deferred candidates ultimately earn admission to the school that kicked the can on their candidacies. While this percentage can vary yearly and from school to school, it’s a relatively consistent general benchmark.

What to Do After Being Deferred

  1. Write a compelling Letter of Continued Interest. This letter should not contain updates on all a student has achieved since applying several weeks ago. Instead, it should be a love letter to the school, showcasing how a student will contribute their singular hook to the school’s unique programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and so much more. Ideally, the letter should be submitted within a few days of the deferral, so admissions officers know you don’t have sour grapes.
  2. Bring the Letter of Continued Interest to the school counselor and ask the counselor to make an advocacy call. With the letter in hand, the counselor will better know how to position the student to admissions officers. While some school counselors will not make advocacy calls, often citing that it’s unfair to fight for some students and not others, that’s nonsense. School counselors should be fighting for all their students. It’s their job.
  3. Consider sending in an additional letter of recommendation from a teacher in a core subject: English, history, math, science, or a foreign language. Note we didn’t suggest sending in an additional letter of recommendation from a famous person!

What Does Being Waitlisted Mean?

When a student applies to a college through Regular Decision, their application can be accepted, waitlisted, or denied.

If accepted to a school they applied to Regular Decision, the student is not bound to attend, and they have until Candidates Reply Date or May 1st, to decide where they will be enrolling.

If denied, they no longer have a shot of earning admission to the college to which they applied that year (with exceptions like the University of California schools, which allow an appeal).

If waitlisted, their application is still under consideration. A final decision on their application will be released in the ensuing weeks.

Why Do Colleges Waitlist Students?

Colleges waitlist applicants for similar reasons as to why they defer applicants. They have yet to determine their institutional needs for their incoming first-year class because they don’t know which and how many of their Regular Decision admitted students will enroll. Some students who commit to enrolling will also change their minds after getting off another college’s waitlist (a.k.a “Summer Melt”). The college is going to wish to fill those vacant seats — and fast.

What to Do After Being Waitlisted

  1. Write a compelling Letter of Continued Interest. It’s the same kind of letter a student should send after a deferral. Ideally, students should submit the letter within a few days of being waitlisted as, historically, we at Ivy Coach have had students get off waitlists the very day they send their letters.
  2. Bring the Letter of Continued Interest to the school counselor and ask the counselor to make an advocacy call. With the letter in hand, the counselor will better know how to position the student to admissions officers. While some school counselors will not make advocacy calls, often citing that it’s unfair to fight for some students and not others, that’s nonsense. School counselors should be fighting for all their students. It’s their job.

What Percentage of Waitlisted Students Get Accepted?

Across all highly selective colleges, about 10% of waitlisted candidates ultimately earn admission to the school that kicked the can on their candidacies. While this percentage can vary yearly and from school to school, it’s a relatively consistent general benchmark.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Deferred and Waitlisted Students

Ivy Coach regularly helps students who first come to us after a deferral or waitlisting optimize their case for admission to the school that placed their admission in limbo. Historically, about 40% of students who first come to us after a deferral or waitlisting end up getting into that school. So, if you’ve been deferred or waitlisted and are interested in Ivy Coach’s help, fill out our free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions about Deferred vs. Waitlisted

Can a student be deferred and later waitlisted?

Yes, students can be deferred in the Early Action/Early Decision round and subsequently waitlisted by the same school after the Regular Decision round. It’s more common than some think. But we believe it’s wrong. After all, the admissions office at this college has had the student’s application since early November. At this point, they should have been able to render a decision.

Is one’s chances better after being deferred or waitlisted?

An applicant’s overall chances are similar after being deferred or waitlisted. About 10% of deferred applicants and about 10% of waitlisted applicants ultimately get in.

If a student gets waitlisted at several schools, do they have a chance at any of them?

Yes! Students waitlisted at multiple schools have the best odds of getting into a couple. But they have to play the game at each school that placed their candidacy in limbo. Each school needs to receive a Letter of Continued Interest. Each school needs to believe that the student will attend if offered admission. And students must show rather than tell their intentions, or admissions officers won’t think it’s genuine. Colleges play games with students. Waitlisted students must play games right back at them.

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