Deferred at your Highly Selective School, Encouraged to Choose Early Decision II? Here’s What To Do

Deferred at your highly selective school, with an option to choose Early Decision II?  Here’s what you need to know.

Colleges have seen record numbers of qualified applicants during the 2020/2021 application cycle, upwards of 25% at many Highly/Most Selective Colleges.

Admissions officers have speculated a number of reasons for this much higher rate of applications.   Online learning has given students more time to apply; the dramatic uptick in  virtual (and more compelling) virtual admissions events has given students increased information about colleges, compelling them to apply; and, as a function of COVID nervousness, highly qualified applicants are simply applying to more schools than ever before.

Perhaps the most frequent reason cited for the dramatic uptick in applications?  The increase in test optional admissions.  Rice University Vice President of Enrollment Yvonne Romero da Silva, speaking to The Rice Thresher, noted: “The testing policy change may have encouraged students who thought they weren’t going to be competitive before to consider Rice. We did see a pretty strong increase in international applications, and I think that that’s where the testing policy you’ll see helped. We saw students from countries like Great Britain and Brazil and other places having a higher interest in applying to schools in the US.”  Rice is but one highly selective school dealing with an increase in applications, up a whopping 29% from last year.

Admissions offices at highly selective schools are especially nervous.  With students applying to more colleges, which applicants are actually very serious in their intent to enroll, if admitted?

Thus is born the highly selective admissions deferral, which states that students should indicate to the college whether they wish to withdraw, move to the regular decision pool, or – in some letters, clearly the preferred option – move to the ostensibly binding Early Admission II application pool.

In a typical letter to applicants, Case Western chirps: ‘If you choose to change your application to Early Decision II, you will be considered in this context: Students who have Case Western Reserve as their first choice are valued for the particular enthusiasm and commitment they bring to our community.”

Without a financial aid offer, and lacking the ability to actually visit their colleges – students and parents are now feeling a particular kind of decision pressure. Too, students are apprehensive about declining the ED II option:  the deferral letters indicate that ED II will give the student the better shot at admissions.  After having been deferred, who wants to be waitlisted?

Following are two strong tips for dealing with this particular kind of deferral decision.

  1. Contact the admissions office. If the deferring college is very high on your list but you can’t bring yourself to commit to ED, tell your representative the reason and ask for a hand. You believe you’d love the school, but haven’t seen it yet?  One of our clients had an officer offer to match with the student with one at the school, for a personal tour with a handheld camera.  Another received an offer to move into conversation with a department chair and a student group that specializes in activities related to her major.  Contact your admissions officer, and see what she or he can offer you in support of ED.
  2. Ask for financial aid letter. If what’s holding you back is your inability to make that decision without knowing the financial aid package, it is reasonable to ask for an estimate of cost of attendance.

In short:   think hard and quickly about what else you would need to make a decision, and ask for it.  Then, do exactly what letter asks you to do:  supply fall semester grades, an additional letter of recommendation, or an update on accomplishments since the point of application, and choose your application decision plan.  ….  And good luck!!

See our quick video with strong general advice on responding to deferred decisions.

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