Congratulations! Your hard work and proven leadership have placed you in an elite position. You may not have been offered admission in the early action/decision round of your favorite college, but you received a notice of deferral. Now, you have the opportunity to double down on your demonstrated interest in your top choice college(s).
Applicants who are deferred are on par (in terms of academic excellence and extracurricular leadership) with those who are admitted. Encourage yourself. Follow this guide to ensure that you are making the most out of your letter of continued interest.
1. Do not repeat anything that is in your original application
The admissions officer reading your letter of continued interest is quite often the admissions officer who already recommended your profile for admission or for deferral. Repeating any information that they already had will be unnecessary and redundant. Your letter of continued interest should only add new information.
2. Include updates!
One of the best things that you can do in your letter of continued interest is to update the admissions officer on things that have transpired within your activities since you submitted your application. Now is an excellent time to tell them how that event you hoped to complete back in November turned out! Be as specific as possible and make sure that you include numbers where you can (how many people participated, how many donations were collected in the fundraiser, how many collaborators contributed their time etc.) It is your job to emphasize why your updates make you a competitive candidate. Have you been selected for any more community awards? Have you received a top mark/award within your graduating class? Be sure to include any major updates and don’t forget to draft and compose your letter using your own voice. Part of the reason you were deferred is because the admissions officers could sense a bright voice in your writing, so keep up that energy as you write this letter of continued interest.
3. Be kind to yourself
Being deferred can feel very disheartening. If you are familiar with Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun you might be able to think strategically about the act of deferral. Search for Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” or “A dream deferred”, and you will see Hughes lists approximately 7 possibilities for a dream that is put off or delayed. In the admissions world there are three possibilities for your deferred dream. You might be admitted, deferred again to be read among the regular decision pool, or denied. The fact that you were deferred at all means that your application was incredible. Granted, any response that isn’t an admit will certainly feel negative. Take it from a former Admissions Officer of the ninth oldest college in the nation... a college that is older than the nation, I assure you being deferred is an achievement not a failure.
4. Reflect on any major life changes that occurred since you submitted your ED or EA application
Admissions officers are interested in you as a whole person. One of the most important things that your letter of continued interest can do is allow them to understand more deeply how you have changed and grown as a person. Do not leave out changes that have occurred in your values, your principles, your beliefs, your passion, or your life mission. These kinds of updates are as important as your extracurricular and academic updates. Consider connecting these updates to a narrative that complements (not mirrors verbatimver batim) the way the University writ large communicates its own mission, motto, or alma mater. Without directly citing them in your letter, present yourself as a candidate that will produce your own legacy similar to the legacies of famous alumni. Explore the university’s favorite famous alumni quotes and think about how you have implemented similar ideas/ideals. Include your reflections in your letter.
5. Stick to the given word limit (if one exists)
Your letter of continued interest, as a rule of thumb, should not be any longer than one page. Be as concise and succinct as possible. Be sure to follow all given format requirements. Admissions officers still have a lot of reading to do at this time of year. Most, will only have approximately 60 seconds to read your letter of continued interest. While staying within the requirements, think strategically about how to format your letter so that their eyes hone in on the most important updates quickly. Make your letter scannable.
Now you have submitted your letter(s), what’s next?
Continue with your regular decision applications. Several of the strategies listed here can be applied to the RD round. Self-reflection is one of the most powerful tools/skills to practice as you finalize your applications. You, the student, will always be MORE selective than the MOST selective colleges. You decided to apply to 10-20 colleges out of more than 4,000 options within the United States and several thousand more international options. YOUR acceptance rate for colleges is highly selective and colleges have been competing non-stop for your attention.
Whenever you feel disheartened in this process, remember who you are. Reflect on all the opportunities and challenges you have encountered. Consider your strengths and celebrate the areas in which you can improve and become even more skillful. Dream BIG. Believe in yourself.