Deferred vs. Waitlisted: Is Acceptance Still Within Reach?

In the complex landscape of college admissions, two terms that often cause confusion and anxiety among applicants are deferred vs. waitlisted. Both scenarios represent a state of uncertainty, but they occur at different stages of the admissions process and have distinct implications for prospective students. Understanding the nuances between being deferred and waitlisted can help applicants navigate their next steps more effectively. This article aims to demystify these terms, offering insights into what they mean, how they impact your college application, and strategies for moving forward.

Key Takeaways of Deferred vs. Waitlisted

  • Deferred means your application has been moved from the early decision or early action pool to the regular decision pool for further consideration.
  • Waitlisted indicates that you meet the admission criteria, but the college cannot offer you a spot in the current class due to space limitations. You may be offered admission if space becomes available.
  • Being deferred or waitlisted is not a denial; both offer a second chance at admission.
  • Proactive steps can be taken in both scenarios to enhance your chances of eventual acceptance.

Table of Contents

  • Understanding Deferred Admission
  • Understanding Waitlisted Admission
  • Comparing Deferred and Waitlisted
  • Actionable Steps for Deferred and Waitlisted Students
  • Real-Life Success Stories
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Deferred vs. Waitlisted
  • Actionable Advice for Deferred and Waitlisted Students
  • Leveraging External Resources

Understanding Deferred Admission

What Does It Mean to Be Deferred?

Being deferred means that a college has not made a final decision on your early application (either Early Decision or Early Action) and has moved it into the regular decision pool. This deferral can happen for various reasons, such as the admissions committee wanting to see more of your senior year grades or compare you with the regular decision applicants.

Strategies for After Being Deferred

  • Update your application: Send any new test scores, awards, or significant achievements.
  • Letter of continued interest: Express your ongoing interest in the school and how you would contribute to the campus community.

Understanding Waitlisted Admission

What Does It Mean to Be Waitlisted?

Being waitlisted means you qualify for admission but the college cannot offer you a spot in the incoming class due to space constraints. If accepted students decline their offers, spots may open up for waitlisted applicants.

Strategies for After Being Waitlisted

  • Demonstrate continued interest: Similar to being deferred, it helps to communicate your strong interest in attending if offered admission.
  • Stay engaged: Keep the college updated on your latest achievements and participation in extracurricular activities.

Comparing Deferred and Waitlisted

Key Differences

TimingOccurs after early decision/action applicationsOccurs after regular decision applications
ReasonNeeds further review or comparisonQualified but no immediate space
Next StepsUpdate application, show continued interestShow continued interest, update on achievements


Both scenarios offer a potential path to admission, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and taking proactive steps to strengthen your candidacy.

Actionable Steps for Deferred and Waitlisted Students

Taking proactive steps after being deferred or waitlisted can significantly impact your chances of eventual acceptance. These steps include updating your application with new information, writing a letter of continued interest, and staying engaged with the admissions process.

For more detailed strategies and insights into the college admissions process, including being deferred or waitlisted, consider exploring resources available on, a platform dedicated to providing comprehensive guidance for college applicants.

Frequently Asked Questions about Deferred vs. Waitlisted

Can a Student Be Deferred and Later Waitlisted?

Yes, it’s possible for a student to be deferred during the Early Action/Early Decision round and then waitlisted after the Regular Decision round. This scenario, while not ideal, is more common than some might think. It underscores the importance of maintaining a proactive stance throughout the admissions process.

Is One’s Chances Better After Being Deferred or Waitlisted?

The overall chances of admission after being deferred or waitlisted are somewhat similar, with about 10% of deferred applicants and 10% of waitlisted applicants eventually gaining admission. However, this statistic can vary widely between institutions and should be taken as a general benchmark rather than a definitive outcome.

If a Student Gets Waitlisted at Several Schools, Do They Have a Chance at Any of Them?

Absolutely. Being waitlisted at multiple institutions does not preclude the possibility of admission. In fact, students who are proactive in communicating their continued interest and updates to their achievements have a reasonable chance of being admitted to one or more of their waitlisted schools. It’s crucial to engage with each institution individually, ensuring that each feels like your top choice.

For more insights into navigating the complexities of college admissions, including deferrals and waitlists, consider visiting this detailed guide for getting accepted into college.

Actionable Advice for Deferred and Waitlisted Students

Writing a Letter of Continued Interest

A Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) is a critical tool for students who have been deferred or waitlisted. This letter should express your ongoing enthusiasm for the institution, any new achievements or accolades since your initial application, and a reaffirmation of your commitment to attend if admitted. It’s a chance to remind the admissions committee of your unique contributions to their campus community.

Updating Your Application

If you’ve received new grades, awards, or have undertaken new projects or leadership roles since submitting your application, inform the admissions office. These updates can provide additional evidence of your suitability and ongoing commitment to your academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Seeking Additional Recommendations

Consider asking another teacher, coach, or mentor who knows you well to write an additional letter of recommendation. This letter should offer new insights into your character, work ethic, and contributions to your community, further supporting your case for admission.

For those navigating the deferred or waitlisted process, resources like ACT’s guide to waitlists and deferrals offer valuable advice and strategies to enhance your application’s appeal.

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