What to do if the answer is no

Thousands of high school seniors will receive bad news this December — the colleges they applied to through the early admission or early action process have rejected or deferred them.

There’s nothing you can do about a rejection, but deferral notices offer some hope that these students might be admitted eventually. What your child should do…

DECEMBER

Call the college’s admissions department, and ask to speak with the admissions officer who handles your high school. Place this call within a few days of receiving the deferral notice.

Express disappointment at being deferred, reiterate that this college is your first choice, and politely ask if there was anything in particular that kept you from being accepted. If the admissions officer mentions specific shortcomings, it might be possible to correct them.

Examples: Your teacher recommendations were not glowing… one of your test scores was low.

If the admissions officer’s response is cool or vague, it could mean that you were not really very close to acceptance. Ask for clarification to be sure. Say, “If I have any realistic chance of getting in later in the admissions process, I want to pursue it. But if I don’t, I’d appreciate it if you let me know, and I’ll apply to another school Early Decision II.”

If the admissions officer still will not provide a straight answer, ask your high school’s guidance counselor to call the admissions officer to request an explanation for the deferral.

If you are given reason to believe that you could turn the deferral into an acceptance, ask one of your senior-year teachers — one in whose class you are excelling — to write you an additional letter of recommendation. This letter should be sent before the end of December so that it is waiting when the admissions officer returns from winter break.

JANUARY

Focus on your studies. Exceptional grades in the first half of your senior year can help turn a deferral into an acceptance. If the admissions officer suggested that a low test score was your problem, retake this test in January.

If you met with any professors at this college and think you made a positive impression, call or E-mail them, mention your deferral and express your disappointment that — barring a change of heart by the admissions department — you will not be able to study under them after all. It would be a major point in your favor if one of these professors lobbied the admissions department on your behalf.

FEBRUARY

In late February, write a one-page update letter to the admissions officer outlining everything that you have accomplished since your original application. In the final paragraph, offer a passionate explanation of why this college remains your top choice and why you believe that you would be an asset to the campus.

EARLY MARCH

Two weeks after you mail your update letter, call the admissions officer to confirm that it was received. Politely provide a quick verbal summary of the recent accomplishments that you wrote about, and reiterate your strong desire to attend the college.