What happens to a student deferred?

After Eric Bersin, 17, learned that Yale had deferred him last Dec. 15, he watched other friends and peers begin celebrating their early admittance to their first choice colleges and wondered if he made the right decision in apply early to Yale.

“It is so frustrating having to wait until April to figure out where I’m going to school,” he said. “I am rather on edge about the whole thing.”

This year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions deferred just over half of the 5,261 early applicants to the Class of 2014. The Office maintains that deferred students have equally strong chances of admission as regular round applicants. But with regular decision applications outnumbering early action applications by almost four times last year, some deferred students spent their holiday break reevaluating their college options. And with high school students submitting record numbers of college applications, deferred Eli-hopefuls, too, are adding schools to their lists.

Emily Hall, 18, of Nicholasville, Ky., said Yale had initially been at the bottom of her college list until she visited campus last summer. The brief trip impressed her so much, she said, that she decided to apply early to Yale and send regular applications to just two other schools: Brown University and the University of Kentucky, her safety school. Hall also decided to withhold her applications to her two other schools until she heard from Yale, knowing that if accepted, she would not bother to send them in.

“As far as how I feel about my chances, I do not feel like they are very good,” Hall said. “With thousands more applications pouring into the admissions office, none of us have incredible chances.”

Like many others who received disappointing news in December, Hall said she needed to change her game plan and prepare “for the worst-case scenario.” The high school senior, who has a 3.95 GPA and spent last summer conducting genetic research at the University of Western Kentucky, said she decided to apply to Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University, two colleges she had visited over summer and liked but had chosen to leave off her earlier application list.

Other deferred students, such as Kavya Shankar , 17, a senior at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, Calif., also added several more schools to their lists after receiving their decision. Shankar originally planned to apply to nine colleges, but has since added three more: Brown, Northwestern and New York University. Of the dozen deferred students interviewed, the majority said the deferral prompted them to apply to additional colleges as a precaution.

“I was definitely disappointed with the deferral, and this just made me a lot more nervous about the rest of my applications,” Shankar said. “Getting deferred kind of made me disheartened by the college process in general.”

While Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said that high school seniors are applying to more schools than ever, he does not see the anxiety caused by early admissions deferrals and rejections as a main source of this increase in college applications.

“The vast majority of early admission programs have been stable around the country for about 40 years in terms of their makeup and requirements,” he said. “In the absence of significant change in the overall landscape for these programs, it is hard to see how they could be a significant causal factor in rising applications.”

Incomplete applications further added to the anxiety of deferral for students such as Eric Bersin, a high school senior from Long Grove, Ill. Bersin said he spent much of the holiday break frantically finishing five applications.

“I waited to save on the application fees,” he said. “ I knew if I got into Yale I was going there.”

Bersin had already applied to several schools before learning of his deferral. He designated two — the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan — as his safety schools and two more — Harvard and Duke — offered students who applied sooner a better chance of securing interviews, Bersin said.

Despite having already been accepted to both of his safety schools, which use rolling admissions, Bersin said he contemplated adding more colleges to the list of nine schools to which he had originally planned to apply. Ultimately, he decided that he would be content attending most of the schools on the list, he said. Given the anxiety caused by his deferral, he is now more eagerly eyeing Princeton, Brown and the University of Chicago.

Now, as he waits for the release of regular round decisions in April, Bersin said he finds it ever more difficult to maintain the motivation that had driven him in past years, especially as some of his classmates are already celebrating acceptances to their first-choice college.

“If it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and the paper I’m working on still needs revising or one piece of homework is still left undone, I’ll be able to call it quits and live with less-than-perfect work,” he said.

Hall, Bresin and Shankar along with the rest of the applicants to the Class of 2014 will hear of their final admissions decision in early April.


  • Ha

    As someone who was deferred and later accepted, I think this article is kind of dumb.

  • To Carmen Wu:

    Why not try to squeeze some honest numbers out of the Admissions Office on this score?

    It is my impression based on data occasionally reported in the newsletter of the Alumni Schools Committee that deferred early applicants – who have already signalled their willingness to matriculate if admitted – are later accepted a a rate at least twice that for “ordinary” applicants in the regular pool.

  • deferred ’12

    I was deferred and ultimately accepted. While I’ve performed quite well at Yale, there’s always some sense of inferiority to my peers who were considered decent enough the first time around. It’s a bit of a blow to self-confidence–Yale should try to be a little more sensitive. Deferring more than 50% seems superfluous.

  • y08

    as someone who was also deferred and later accepted, I agree that the article is dumb. It also shows a lack of foresight by some of the students interviewed who know what the odds of getting accepted are, but still didn’t have a thorough backup plan.

    It’s great that you want to save money on application fees, and wait until after you hear from Yale to send out additional apps. That doesn’t prevent you from filling out all the additional apps ahead of time so all that you have to do is write the app. fee checks and drop them in the mail.

  • ’12

    Sometimes a deferral can be a good thing, precisely because of the additional schools applied to in a panic. I wasn’t even considering Yale until I got deferred from MIT, and I added it at the last minute and ended up coming here.

  • Deferred

    If only the title would fit the article…

  • Y11

    @ Deferred ’12, decisions at this level of selectivity are kinda arbitrary. I wouldn’t attach too much shame to being deferred but later accepted to Yale.

    I applied early at Yale and was deferred. Come April, I got into Yale, Harvard and Princeton (but not Penn). The admissions office is a bunch of humans, not some mysterious being that can give a definitive answer on your value as a student.

  • Deferred ’10

    @deferred ’12-

    Don’t feel inferior. It’s not worth it. I have other friends who were deferred and even friends who got in off the wait-list. I would never have known if they hadn’t told me, because most of them are smarter and/or more talented than some people I know who actually got in early. We’re all here, and we’re all equally deserving of being here.

  • ’98

    I would rather have seen a news article to match the title than all these unconnected anecdotes

  • Deferred ’14

    Is there any word on how many applications there are for Class of 2014 RD?

  • ’98

    They are probably delaying the press release in order to scrounge up as many dubious applications as possible in order to look as good as possible in comparison to Brown, Princeton. Harvard and Stanford. Yale needs to top 30,000 apps, no matter HOW they come up with them.

  • Deferred ’14

    How so? It’s not like they don’t already have everything turned in by deadline, which was two weeks ago. [and I believe Princeton only had 26,000 this year]

    There is also a possibility that there is a smaller increase in RD apps, mirroring the decrease in EA ones.