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What does admissions deferral mean?

Published April 5, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    There are several types of official responses to a college application: You can be accepted, deferred, waitlisted, or rejected.

    When it comes to the college admissions process, it’s essential to understand the difference, so you’ll know how to proceed with individual schools.

    In this article, we’ll dive into exactly what admissions deferral means — one of the trickiest responses to understand — so you’ll know how to form a plan to move forward, if that’s the reply you get from a college.

    What does it mean if a college defers your application?

    If a college defers your application, they’re essentially saying they don’t want to reject you, but there are stronger applicants they’ve accepted ahead of you. Students are deferred during the early admissions process, and their applications will be reviewed again during the regular admissions process later on in the cycle.

    Again, being deferred doesn't mean you’ve been rejected from a college. It means they believe you’re a suitable applicant, but they need to consider you against future applicants before making a decision.

    What’s the difference between being deferred and waitlisted?

    A deferral means the college wants to review your application again during the regular decision period. You’ll only get deferred during the early admissions process.

    Applicants get waitlisted during the regular admissions process. Being waitlisted means the college has put you on the “maybe” list. If an applicant they’ve offered admission to drops out, you’re on the waitlist to take their spot. Whether you make it off the waitlist has more to do with how many students decline admission and how many students are on the waitlist ahead of you.

    Can you request to defer your own admission after you’ve been accepted to a college?

    While you can defer your admission after you’ve been accepted, there are a few things you need to do to ensure your spot is secure.

    First, you need to accept your enrollment and tell the school you’ll attend. Then you need to pay the required deposit. Once the school has your deposit and confirms your enrollment, you can defer or delay your attendance.

    You do this by providing a written request to the school. Generally, colleges and universities have their own deadlines for deferment. If you’re unsure if your college has a deadline, contact the admissions office for more information.

    If you defer your own college admission, can you apply to other schools?

    While colleges and universities are accepting of gap years and deferred enrollment for personal reasons, they approve deferrals with the intention that you’ll eventually attend their school. Unfortunately, most schools will not allow you to defer enrollment to attend another school. You can use your deferral period to apply to other schools, but you can usually not attend them.

    If you’re unsure if you want to go to a school you’ve been accepted to, you can defer your enrollment and then withdraw when the time comes for you to attend. But again, you can’t defer admissions and attend another college in most cases.

    Final thoughts

    Keep in mind that colleges and universities have their own set of rules. If you’re unsure about deadlines or what you’re allowed to do if you defer your own admission, contact the school’s admissions office with your questions.