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Deferrals, Again…

I planned to write about grad school, but this subject is in the air.

It began two or three years ago. Why would the student with a weighted 3.7 GPA and a 25 ACT be admitted to a competitive college while one from the same high school with a GPA of 4.2 and ACT score of 32 be denied? This year, students with 4.5 GPAs and 1500 SAT scores are being deferred by many colleges. What’s driving this trend?

When I text a top student about decisions and don’t hear back, I know what that means. Thankfully, none of my deferred students who responded are upset. They are happy with their current decisions and look forward to more.

Nationwide, my colleagues express anger and disappointment. “What are they looking for? There is no logic!” Many reactions focus on the decisions at a popular competitive midwestern university:

“OOS (out of state) student deferred. #3 in class. 1550 SAT. Great extracurriculars, essays. Surprised…and not surprised.”

“OOS boy (engineering) with 5.52/6.0. 1510 SAT. Robotics internship with Boston Dynamics, teaches kids to code, great story and “Why Us? essay.” Deferred.”

“OOS girl (business) ADMITTED. No test scores. Strong GPA/extras, but not at the level of my deferred applicants. Deferred at Miami and Northeastern. This year hurts my head.”

Yes, deferral to the RD pool beats denial. I help students respond to deferral requirements and write Letters of Continued Interest. One was admitted after writing a letter, as the university requested.

We need to be honest with our students. First, review the data. Not every student who works hard will be admitted to the most popular, highly-selective colleges. But we also feel the frustration and pain of our kids–and support them. None of this has anything to do with their qualifications. Institutional priorities drive the process.

A deeper point: the idea of a “dream college” is no more than that, and the “University of ______” is not the only place to shape your future.

Quoting my blogpost from April 18, 2021: “Our students are real, prestige is not. They transform themselves and their institutions, creating what we equate with prestige (knowledge, reputation, achievement) when they engage on their campuses.”


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