The Ivy Coach Daily

February 24, 2023

What To Do If You’ve Been Deferred by Columbia

Columbia University's library is lit up under the night sky.
Columbia University has historically been tight-lipped about its admissions statistics (photo credit: Andrew Chen).

Did Columbia University defer your admission in the Early Decision round? If so, it’s normal to wonder if you genuinely have a shot of earning admission to the Morningside Heights-based school in the Regular Decision round. It’s also normal to wonder what you should do next to optimize your case for admission — not only to Columbia but to the other schools you’ll be applying to in just a couple of short weeks after learning of your deferral. Well, it’s time to find out answers!

Columbia University Admission Statistics: Historically Withheld

Years before Cornell University began withholding its admissions statistics, Columbia kept its admissions figures close to the vest. But eventually, the data does become available due to its inclusion in the Common Data Set.

Now, in light of Columbia getting caught with its hand in the cookie jar by one of its math professors this past year for misreporting data to US News & World Report for its annual college ranking, you might wonder if the Early Decision acceptance rate the Ivy League school has historically released to the Common Data Set is accurate. But the accuracy of Columbia’s Early Decision acceptance rate through the years was never in question.

Columbia Early Decision Acceptance Rate

While Columbia has yet to release its Early Decision acceptance rates for the Class of 2028 or the Class of 2027, it was likely lower for the Class of 2028 than the Class of 2027 since Columbia bounced back in the 2024 US News & World Report annual ranking from a free-fall in the 2023 ranking.

For the Class of 2028, 6,009 students applied Early Decision to Columbia, marking the third-largest ED pool in the school’s history and eclipsing the pool of 5,738 applicants to the Class of 2027. The cause of the dip for the Class of 2027? It was likely fallout from Columbia’s US News & World Report reporting scandal.

Before news of the scandal broke, for the Early Decision pool of Columbia’s Class of 2026, 10.31% of ED applicants got in, slightly higher than the record-low 10.1% of students who earned ED admission to Columbia’s Class of 2025.

 Have a look at Columbia’s Early Decision acceptance rate over the last two decades:

Admissions CycleColumbia Graduating ClassColumbia’s Early Decision Admission Rate
2023-2024Class of 2028TBD
2022-2023Class of 2027TBD
2021-2022Class of 202610.31%
2020-2021Class of 202510.1%
2019-2020Class of 202415.1%
2018-2019Class of 202314.6%
2017-2018Class of 202215.9%
2016-2017Class of 202115.9%
2015-2016Class of 202017.6%
2014-2015Class of 201918.7%
2013-2014Class of 201819.7%
2012-2013Class of 201719.2%
2011-2012Class of 201620.4%
2010-2011Class of 201519.5%
2009-2010Class of 201421.2%
2008-2009Class of 201322.5%
2007-2008Class of 201223.1%
2006-2007Class of 201124.5%
2005-2006Class of 201025.6%
2004-2005Class of 200926.4%
2003-2004Class of 200828.9%
2002-2003Class of 200731.7%

Columbia Early Decision Deferral Rate

Historically, Columbia has not released the percentage of students the school defers in the Early Decision round, instead only releasing the ED acceptance rate to the Common Data Set. With the ED acceptance rate, it’s possible to glean the percentage of students who don’t get in, but it’s not possible to distinguish the deferrals from the denials.

You’ll note that any data point you find online about the percentage of students deferred by Columbia doesn’t trace to data releases by Columbia itself. That said, our sources within Columbia’s admissions office have asserted that Columbia defers more students than they accept: two deferred students for every denied student. So if around 10% are admitted, 60% would be deferred and 30% denied.

Columbia Early Decision Denial Rate

With the above caveat that Columbia does not release the data on the percentage of deferred as opposed to denied Early Decision applicants, Ivy Coach’s longtime sources in Columbia’s admissions office have asserted that the school denies about one student for every two applicants it defers. It’s estimated that the ED denial rate is thus around 30%.

5 Steps to Take After Being Deferred by Columbia University

  1. Complete a PostMortem application review to understand what went wrong and what needs to change, so students don’t make the same mistakes in the Regular Decision round that they made in the Early Decision round at Columbia.
  2. Write a powerful Letter of Continued Interest to Columbia to express your continued desire to attend — and submit it swiftly after your deferral. Let them envision you on their campus contributing to the school’s community. Make sure it’s brimming with specifics that only apply to Columbia. If you write sentences that also apply to New York University, they should be stricken from the record (e.g., sitting on the steps of The Met, visiting the top of the Empire State Building, etc.).
  3. Focus on your Regular Decision applications once you finish the Letter of Continued Interest to Columbia. Use the weeks between learning of your Columbia deferral and Regular Decision deadlines to fix mistakes that you made in the ED round.
  4. Bring your Letter of Continued Interest to your school counselor in the New Year, asking the counselor to place an advocacy call to Columbia’s regional admissions rep on your behalf. With the letter, the school counselor will be better able to present you as you wish to be positioned. Your counselor can also mention any meaningful updates to your application since early November (at Ivy Coach, we don’t like students including updates in their Letters of Continued Interest since it risks making them less likable).
  5. Distract yourself. Read a book. Write poetry. Knit. Swim. Do whatever you need to do but don’t continue to reach out to Columbia’s admissions office. You had your chance to speak through your Letter of Continued Interest. Any further contact with Columbia’s admissions committee will only risk drowning out the power of your letter.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid After Being Deferred by Columbia

  1. They don’t think to go through their Common Application and Columbia supplement to understand what may have gone wrong so they can correct mistakes to their Common App. and other college supplements for Regular Decision.
  2. They visit Columbia’s admissions office, asking to meet with an admissions officer to discuss their candidacy. Columbia’s admissions officers don’t want to meet with deferred students.
  3. They wage a seemingly endless campaign to Columbia’s admissions committee, hoping to sway them. The only contact deferred Columbia applicants should make with admissions post-deferral is the submission of a powerful Letter of Continued Interest. It’s not about writing them daily or weekly. It’s neither necessary nor beneficial for students to be gadflies.
  4. They send an additional recommendation letter from a celebrity or an extracurricular advisor. Columbia has already received two teacher letters of recommendation and a school counselor recommendation. Suppose students are going to submit an additional letter of recommendation. In that case, they should make sure it’s from someone Columbia would want to hear from — like a teacher of a core subject (English, history, math, science, or foreign language). They don’t want to hear from a politician or actress. It won’t impress them.
  5. They do nothing, making no contact with Columbia post-deferral. They don’t submit a Letter of Continued Interest. They don’t ask their school counselor to place an advocacy call to Columbia on their behalf. When Columbia doesn’t hear from them, the school will likely assume the student has sour grapes over the deferral.

Chances of Admission After Columbia Deferral

Like most highly selective universities, Columbia has historically admitted around 10% of deferred applicants.

Chances of Admission After Columbia Deferral with Ivy Coach

Over the last three decades, approximately 41% of students who first come to Ivy Coach after receiving notice of a deferral from Columbia have earned admission.

Over the last 30 years, students who completed Early Decision applications to Columbia with Ivy Coach have all earned admission — marking perfect sweeps — to Columbia 27 times. In the three years in which Ivy Coach’s Columbia applicants didn’t all earn admission in the ED round, 44% got in during Regular Decision.

Columbia Deferral FAQ

Is a Columbia deferral meaningful?

While it would certainly be more meaningful to have earned admission, about a third of applicants are typically denied admission outright in the Early Decision round. So, yes, a Columbia deferral is meaningful when put in context.

What is an advocacy call, and can it help my case for admission to Columbia?

An advocacy call is a phone call, typically placed by the student’s high school counselor, to the regional representative on Columbia’s admissions team. While some school counselors won’t place advocacy calls — frequently citing issues of equity — we at Ivy Coach believe it is a school counselor’s job to advocate for their students after a deferral.

Will Columbia remain the lowest-ranked Ivy League school in the US News & World Report annual college ranking in the years to come?

While we like to say that we have a crystal ball at Ivy Coach, it’s hard to say. US News is certainly not happy with Columbia for misreporting data to the publication — a fact only brought to light by a Columbia math professor.

That said, we expect Columbia to remain in US News’ doghouse for the next few years, likely through the Class of 2030. After that, we anticipate a recovery by Columbia from the #18 slot in the annual ranking, though we do not envision Columbia returning to the top three, a position it held as recently as 2021.

How to Get Started with Ivy Coach After Columbia Deferral

If Columbia deferred you and you’re hoping to optimize your case for Regular Decision admission, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form so we can be in touch to outline our PostMortem and Letter of Continued Interest service.

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