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Managing the Maybe

Dear Parents and Students,

Let’s talk about managing the maybe.

In the world of college admissions, there is nothing better than a yes. In some cases, that yes feels (and probably is) akin to winning the lottery; at the very least it is a validation that your hard work and effort have paid off and (phew!) you’re goin’ to college! Conversely, a no can feel like ­­the end of the world. But at least with a no, you can mourn and move on.  You have closure. 

Which brings me to what is arguably the most difficult of the admissions decisions to handle, the state of limbo known as the deferral. It’s the colleges way of saying “maybe we want you.”

Sometimes the reason for a deferral is clear: you need to get your grades or test scores up. In these cases, that maybe means, “We have faith in you. We believe you can do it and we are willing to wait for you.” So, don’t disappoint the college. Work hard, submit your first semester grades, and keep testing.  If you show progress, there is a good chance that your “maybe” will become the “yes” you are hoping for. 

Sometimes, however, the reasons for a deferral are less obvious.  You have the grades, the test scores, and the extracurricular involvements, but those accomplishments still aren’t quite enough to get you in the door because the competition is fierce. Thus, the frustration mounts and the waiting begins.  But take heart, you do not have to sit idly by, destined to serve as a passive participant in this important process. Here are a few of the steps you can take to actively manage your deferral:

Send in mid-year grades: Many of the schools on the common application require these, but even those schools not using the common app will likely want to see your first-semester performance.  You should discuss the process for sending in mid-year transcripts with your guidance department.

Show the Love: Express your continued interest in the school, and let them know that College X remains a top choice for you despite the deferral. You might also let the school know that you have continued to research and connect by identifying some of the activities and programs in which you plan to immediately participate. Be sincere and specific.

Update your resume: Colleges want to see that you have remained focused and involved during your senior year.  Conveying the message that you have not taken your foot off the gas says that you are motivated, hard-working, and ready to contribute to the college community on day one.
Submit additional recommendations: Check with your college to see if they will accept another written recommendation or a phone call from your guidance counselor.  Having another voice advocate on your behalf sends a powerful message and can help differentiate you amongst the many thousands of other applicants.

Focus on your other options: This may be the most vital of the tips I can provide when it comes to managing your maybe. Manage your expectations.  Many deferrals will turn into yes’s but some will not.  Concentrating your time and energy on exploring the yes’s you have already received is a great way to ensure that you are happy, regardless of the outcome. Planning a campus visit, connecting with other accepted students on social media, and checking out housing options are a few of the ways that you can begin to discover what awaits you at a potential college that has already accepted you.

One note: every college handles deferrals differently, so be sure to check out the best way to submit updated information.  Some schools request that updates are submitted through a specific portal; others will accept them through the admissions email. 

Remember, you only get to experience your last semester of high school once, so don’t let ANY admissions decision prevent you from enjoying this wonderful time of life.  After all, you are about to graduate high school, a Milestone that is worthy of celebration, regardless of a yes, no, or maybe.

Wishing you all my best,


admin eSolutionsManaging the Maybe