In this informational essay, Lauren Lynch — former admissions officer and Head of Advising at CollegeAdvisor.com — covers what happens after students submit early action and early decision applications. For more guidance on the college application process, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
Early Action and Early Decision deadlines have passed. Perhaps you’ve heard back from your school of choice, and if you were admitted, congratulations! If, however, you were deferred or denied, you are probably feeling a mix of disappointment, fear, anger, and sadness. And if you have not yet heard back at all, the waiting can feel a bit paralyzing.
Before ED/EA deadlines, students play a strategic game of chance best managed with a hearty dose of optimism. They parse their chances of getting into this school or that school with a vigilance that I’m sure teachers wished these same students applied in their classrooms. While deciding where and how to apply often becomes a matter of statistics, it’s also a highly personal and very important decision to make. Ideally, this decision should reflect what you truly value and are seeking in a college experience.
At this point you’ve done the research, narrowed down your list, and designated which school(s) to apply to EA and/or ED. As decisions start to be released, it’s a good time to reevaluate your priorities, goals, and options.
Having done this work for almost 20 years, I have worked with thousands of students throughout the college application process. Invariably, disappointments become extraordinary opportunities. They often reveal a resilience, open mindedness, and hopefulness that will prove useful as you navigate through the uncertainty ahead. If you are waiting to hear back from an ED or EA school, or if you have received a disappointing decision, let’s figure out some next steps.
Deferred from Early Decision school of choice:
If you were deferred, you may feel an increased commitment to that school and a renewed determination to gain admission. If that’s the case, it’s important to know that approximately 7% of students who are deferred from an Early Decision application are then admitted under Regular Decision. This means that, while there are steps you can take to stay in the admission spotlight, it’s also important to be realistic about your chances and focus on completing your applications to other schools. In order to communicate continued interest, think about how to stand out in the Regular Decision cycle.
Colleges welcome additional and updated information, but keep in mind that they mean just that. Please do not send them endless communications in which you reiterate your love for the school. Instead, send the Admission Office concrete and specific updates on your activities, experiences, academics, and life events. Examples of this include new test scores, leadership positions, awards, employment, or a change in family circumstances.
Be sure to have your high school send updated grades and transcripts (yes, you need to keep your grades up!). You may also wish to send a letter of continued interest. The LOCI should include all of the information requested by the school, but it can also briefly reiterate your interest. This letter should remind the school that you are a legitimate applicant qualified for admission. It should also reiterate that not only are you a good fit for the college, but the college is a good fit for you.
You also want to let the Admissions Office know that, if admitted, you will accept your offer. Typically, colleges prefer to accept students who they believe are likely to attend if admitted. Thinking ahead to Regular Decision results, these same things are true for students who end up on a wait list. An illustrated commitment may increase your chances of ultimately being accepted.
If perhaps you feel a tinge of relief that you have been released from your obligation to your Early Decision school, this is a great opportunity to reevaluate the aspects of a college environment that you value most. Revise your college list. Make sure every school is one that you would be genuinely excited to attend. If you are worried about how to turn around applications quickly, let us know. Our Senior Sprint package will help get you over the finish line with the confidence you need to submit your remaining applications. While you may wish to submit a LOCI to your ED school, you should also enjoy the freedom and excitement that comes with being open to opportunity.
Deferred from Early Action school of choice:
Being deferred from an EA school is much like being deferred from an ED school. You can either continue to cultivate a relationship with your EA school, or you can focus your attention on other applications. Either way, the same rules apply. The letter of continued interest will add weight to your application, though it may not have a huge impact. However, it might help you to feel that you have helped shape the ultimate admission outcome.
Denied from Early Action/Early Decision school of choice:
Rejection hurts. And although the word “deny” is supposed to soften that blow, it really doesn’t. Allow yourself some time to wallow. Nurse your wounds, get sad, angry, mad, or sullen. But remember this: I have never, ever, EVER had a student who, at the end of the application process, told me that being rejected from their first choice school ruined their life. Never. Instead, students reflect that the denial, while painful, also pushed them towards a different path — one that led them to a school that was, in fact, the perfect fit.
So, take a few moments to figure out why that ED/EA school was on your list in the first place. Ask yourself if that school was your absolute first choice or one that you decided on in order to boost your chances. If that’s the case, you can move on knowing that you tried your best and can focus on other colleges.
If this college felt like your dream school, though, figure out why. Was it the setting? Location? Prestige? Specific program? Vibe? Athletics? Once you have determined the qualities about your first choice that you valued most, we can ensure that other colleges on your list share those qualities. We can also help you refine your application materials so that you succeed during the RD cycle.
Life after Early Action/Early Decision deferrals and denials:
One of the hardest things for students and families to comprehend about college admissions is how little control you have over decisions. You can be a great student with perfect scores and phenomenal activities, and you still might not get into your school(s) of choice. Knowing and accepting this is integral to successfully navigating the application process.
Being denied, deferred, or wait listed at a particular college does NOT dictate your value. Don’t let it change how you feel about yourself or the pride you should rightfully take in your successes — and struggles — throughout your high school experience. Whatever outcome you face will only determine your choices, not your potential and certainly not the brightness of your future. Disappointment and uncertainty are hard, but they are transient. You will look back on this time with a sense of wonder and relief, both that you have made it through, but also that you have made a home for yourself at whatever college is lucky enough to welcome you to its ranks.
This informational essay was written by Lauren Lynch, head of advising at CollegeAdvisor.com. If you want to get one-on-one advising for your college applications, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.