Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Do this not that when you write to the admissions committee.

Do <em>this</em> not <em>that</em> when you write to the admissions committee.

ask the recap: college admissions essaysI got deferred from my first choice school. I know it’s a long shot, but I heard you can write a deferral-response letter to the admissions committee. So, a couple questions. When should I send it? What should I say in it? And is there anything else that might help at this point?
–P.A., USA


OK, well, bummer. A disappointment for sure. But while you may think your odds are long—and they may well be—you can nudge those odds a bit more in your favor by writing that deferral-response letter the right way. It definitely never hurts to remind the committee who you are and why they might have a renewed interest in you as they consider your application against those of the regular decision applicants.

And here’s a little bonus: Admissions officers generally agree that a deferral-response letter should be sent in mid-February, when committees begin their deliberations of all the year's candidates in earnest. Which means you can focus on those January 1st and January 15th deadlines for other schools in the meantime and worry about the letter after that. (Relief!)

That said, there is a right way to approach that deferral-response letter…and a wrong way.

RIGHT WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

Be honest. Be direct.

Right about the time your letter lands in that admissions office inbox, those admissions officers will be swimming up rivers of essays from applicants seeking to demonstrate their intellectual magnificence.

Be different. Put away the thesaurus. Write like a normal human being. Tell them why you think you’re a good fit for their institution and why their institution is a good fit for you. In other words, highlight something about your story—something that helps you stand out from the crowd. (But remember: Be honest!)

WRONG WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

But don’t be too honest. And don’t be too direct.

Feeling desperate? Take a deep breath. In romance, and in the college admissions process, desperation is a turnoff. You want to project an understated confidence in yourself.

Feeling annoyed? Take two deep breaths. Then go for a run or something. You will not get points by, say, reminding Harvard that it rejected Warren Buffett and that it won’t want to repeat the folly with you.

Remember: Understated confidence. Yes, you think you’ll be a great fit for Awesome U. But you’ll make a great life for yourself no matter what, and you appreciate the admissions committee’s consideration.

RIGHT WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

Tell them the news!

Have you accomplished something of note since you applied? Be sure to mention it. Perhaps your report card hit the ceiling, or you raised your grade in the toughest course you're taking, or you unexpectedly won an award. If you don’t bring it up, who will?

WRONG WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

But don't forget to edit the news.

Don't go overboard. While it's good to highlight an accomplishment or two from the last several months, talking about every achievement, every new activity, and so on, will make you come across as anxious and grasping. Allow the strength of your most important achievements to carry the letter; don't pile on.

RIGHT WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

Keep it focused.

Again, think about your reader. Admissions officers are overwhelmed. Give them the information they need in a crisp, engaging package…that gets right to the point.

WRONG WAY TO RESPOND TO A DEFERRAL LETTER

But not scary focused.

Laser-like intensity isn’t your friend here. The admissions committee already knows you’re interested in—maybe a little obsessed with—their school. So keep it short for their sake, but avoid the serial killer’s ransom note: “LET ME IN. OR ELSE."

Speaking of no-nos, now is definitely not the time to bombard the admissions committee with a pile of new paperwork. But if, in addition to your deferral-response letter, you have a teacher from one of your first semester classes who didn’t write on your behalf before, consider having him or her send a recommendation on your behalf now. Especially if you excelled in that teacher’s class, that extra vote of confidence may turn a skeptical admissions committee into one that feels new enthusiasm about admitting you.

Good luck!

Winning College Admissions Essay Guide

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