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Why do so many decisions come out late on Friday afternoon? Admissions offices send out their notifications and turn off the lights…avoiding calls from a flurry of unhappy students.

But last Friday, as I wrapped up my Florida trip at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen Hospitality School, I got plenty of good news too. The Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Miami, and Maryland sent out “Congratulations!” notices (or shared them on the portal) to several of my students. Since these schools were top choices for some, I add these students to the “done” list, along with those who were ED admits to Northwestern, Vassar, Tulane, Richmond, Virginia Tech, Fordham, Fairfield, and Drexel.

So, the news wasn’t all great, but deferrals are not denials. And nearly all the students who were disappointed with deferrals have been admitted to one or more colleges where they would be happy, sometimes even with merit aid. Still, why so many deferrals?

We know that the University of Tampa and the College of Charleston (among many others) are overenrolled…that’s why they defer students with relatively high GPA’s. But one of my strongest students–high GPA, phenomenal extracurriculars, and solid test scores–was deferred by his state university. When he said, “I’m not sure why,” I had to agree. Perhaps they assumed he wouldn’t enroll? The University of Michigan and Clemson deferred nearly all applicants in my local area. The only conclusion is that there just are not enough readers to handle the deluge of applications. Most EA applications wind up being reviewed as RD, a consequence of test-optional policies.

So hang in there till March and April. Write strong Letters of Continued Interest to let your deferred colleges know how well you’re doing (but not for every college…ask me about that). Your deferral has less to do with you personally than you may think.


Last week, I showed an example of a lackluster college essay presented by Jeff Selingo, author of Who Gets In and Why? Regarding the essay, he wrote:

“I asked admissions deans who already find the essay susceptible to manipulation what they thought of ChatGPT. One dean at a highly selective private suggested it might accelerate an idea floated by some of his colleagues to turn the essay into an independent assessment proctored by a counselor. In such a case, students would be given a random prompt and asked to answer in a specified time period.

I told the dean that I can't imagine counselors will want to do more work in the college application process. “Well, if they really want their students to apply here, then they won’t have much of a choice,” the admissions dean said flippantly.”

My feeling: whatever changes colleges will require, I am glad to do more work to help students write uncommon, human-generated essays. I expect that many students may start with a computer-generated draft: we all use tools to make our lives easier.

That’s the purpose of technology! Since humans began using the five simple machines in the stone age to address basic needs like building shelter and finding food, we’ve created and refined tech to reduce our workload physically and mentally. Think the wheel and the washing machine, the calculator and autopay (which frees up brain space). Then there’s speed. Once machines drove production, markets, wealth, and opportunity grew more quickly. All that adds up to ease.

Our text-generating apps can make writing easier, but they can’t make it better–at least not today. “The right tool for the job” of writing a strong college essay is still the human brain.


This essay is full of clichés, unnecessary words that don’t add meaning, and is repetitive. Any student who had a parent go through an illness could write the same essay. Lacking personal examples, it “tells” rather than “shows.” It actually seems to be machine-generated.

ChatGPT is only as good as what’s been put into it. So far, that doesn’t include the detailed experiences that can only be lived–and written about–by a human.

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