Covid continues to dramatically reshape the college admissions landscape, leading many strong candidates for the class of 2026 to get deferred early action. (Early action candidates can submit their college applications in November or December to certain schools, and will hear back from these colleges by late January. The University of Michigan, Northeastern, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Miami, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina and others released early action decisions last week.)
This year, it seems that more students than ever have been deferred early action. Here’s what you need to know:
- Increased Deferrals Reflect Increased Application Volume
Although most schools haven’t yet released data about application volume, there are a few instructive metrics. For instance, for the class of 2026, Northeastern allegedly received 50,000 early action applicants and admitted 3,000 students – for an admit rate of 6%. Last year, the early action admit rate was 38%. It’s especially important to consider this information now, before regular decisions are announced, since the regular decision admit rate is almost always significantly lower than the early action one. (And Northeastern reportedly received 90,000 total applications this year, as opposed to 70,000 last year.)
- Strong Candidates Are Getting Deferred Early Action
Highly selective schools, like the University of Michigan, have long deferred a great number of highly qualified early action candidates. They do this in part to protect their yield; the assumption is that extremely strong students are using these schools as backups, and are unlikely to matriculate if they get into even more selective schools. There have also been rumors, for years, that popular schools like Michigan were simply unable to review everyone in a timely way, leading to deferrals. These factors are highly relevant in 2022, when application volume is up and some schools report being understaffed. Furthermore, since many colleges overenrolled last year, they are potentially being even more cautious in these early rounds.
- Express Continued Interest
If you were deferred early action, there are steps that you can take to enhance your odds of getting in. First, if a school (like Michigan) offers the opportunity to write an update, definitely do so. Since part of the deferral process can be gauging interest, you absolutely want to reiterate your passion for the school. (And tell them that you will get in if admitted, assuming that’s the case.) If your guidance counselor has a relationship with the admissions officer for your school, and the college allows this type of contact, you can consider asking your guidance counselor to advocate on your behalf. Furthermore, you should update the college about your first semester grades and any new accomplishments since you applied. (Be judicious, it needs to be a significant event.) Finally, if the school allows it, you can send in a new recommendation, from someone who can share a different perspective on your candidacy.
- Prepare To Wait
Although some colleges will take another look at their deferred pool before regular decision release dates (in March), others will not. Furthermore, I suspect that wait lists will also be long this year.
Bottom Line: This admissions season is already shaping up to be the most competitive yet. If you were deferred early action, you are in good company. While you wait for regular decision results, express continued interest and explore the options that you already have on the table. Although frustrating, a deferral doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t eventually get in. It also doesn’t mean that you aren’t extremely well qualified. (In fact, it can mean the opposite!)