The College Conversation: Early applicants still have hope

Early admissions decisions rolled in this week and will continue to be sent through the holidays. While some applicants were admitted outright (usually those with stellar stats, outstanding athletic ability, legacy status, or who donated a building or two), the majority of students are left heartbroken due to the harsh reality that they did not get in to a college of their choice.

However, for others who applied early, there is hope. Their admissions decision has not been made yet, since the college needs some time to think about it. For those deferred applicants, read on.

A deferral is absolutely not a rejection. It is actually another opportunity for you to let the school know how much you want to be there and why you deserve one of its precious spots.

If you applied early action or early decision to a university, the admission's committee reviews your file keeping in mind three possible outcomes: an acceptance, a denial or a deferral.

Because this college deferred you, this means they would like to review the regular decision pool of applicants before making a final decision. This also means your mid-year senior grades will probably weigh heavily in their decision, as well as any new test scores or new information. Some colleges suggest you send a follow-up letter detailing that new information. If a university is your first choice, you should clearly state this in the letter and promise that you will attend if admitted.

I suggest you contact your specific area admissions representative via e-mail and ask how you can strengthen your application. The letter should sound optimistic but not arrogant as you explain your excitement with this new opportunity to be reviewed further. If you skipped out on the optional interview, you might ask if an interview is still possible. Would they be willing to review a supplemental letter of recommendation? The only extra letter should be from someone who has new information to share about you that might strengthen your candidacy. Remember that sending in letters from famous alumni, members of Congress, etc. won't help unless these individuals seriously know you and your academic abilities.

Please be patient. You don't want to nag your admissions representative, and you want to show maturity about the process. The final decisions will probably not be made until late March.

Take the time to grieve this loss for now, but remember that by being deferred you were just given another opportunity and that is to evaluate all your options and all your financial aid packages and choose your pick from those options.

Cry if you need to (because that will make you feel a little bit better). Scream if you need to (because it will make everyone know how mad you are and deserve to be) and then, pick yourself up and push those shoulders back knowing that this college is not out of reach for you at all. You are a competitive candidate and still very much in the running. If they didn't want you, they would have flat out rejected you, and they didn't. A deferral letter is equivalent to their telling you, "You're pretty darn good, but we need some time to mull this over."

You are a wonderfully talented, gracious, intelligent, thoughtful and articulate young adult and any school that ultimately rejects you is not worth it. There are colleges who will want you. Hang in there, breathe, finish your other applications, and by all means, make sure you have other college choices that are "safer" ones.

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The Parent Education Committee of Laguna Beach will host me, along with a panel of professionals focused on college and career options for your child, at its January Coffee Break from 8:15 to 10:15 a.m. Jan. 19 at The Surf and Sand Hotel. Join us, ask questions and bring your advice, as you navigate the path to college admission.

LISA McLAUGHLIN is the founder and executive director of EDvantage Consulting Inc., an independent college admissions counseling firm in South Orange County. Her column runs Sundays. Please send college admissions questions to Lisa@EDvantageConsulting.com.

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