Early Decision/Action: What to do When Deferred, Denied or Accepted

December is the month when things kick into high gear in the admissions cycle. Some of the most selective schools in the country release their decisions in either an Early Decision round, which is binding, or Early Action, which is not binding. This is an intense week for seniors. Even if they haven’t applied on an early plan, watching their peers can elevate stress and anxiety. Here are some steps to take for each specific outcome:


  1. First of all, you must remember that college admission decisions are never about the student, they are always about the college and their institutional goals in a given year.
  2. Give yourself 24-48 hours to feel the disappointment and process the emotions you are going through.
  3. Review your list and talk to your school counselor to make sure that you have a balanced list for the regular decision round of applications.
  4. Proof your applications, submit them and confirm that your supporting documents (letters of recommendation, transcripts and test scores) are submitted by monitoring your application portfolio.
  5. Renew your academic focus and plan to do you best work for the remainder of your senior year.


  1. A deferral leaves applicants with some hope of admission, but can be disappointing. If you are deferred, give yourself some space to process this decision and take a break before you roll up your sleeves and get back to work.
  2. Carefully review all of the information from the college to see if there are steps you need to take to continue your candidacy. If there are, follow the directions exactly as directed.
  3. Review your list of schools for regular decision and make sure it is balanced. Schedule a meeting with your school counselor to review your list and get their input. (School counselors can have important context and insights).
  4. Determine if there is new information that you want to add to your file. If you have already submitted your application, reach out to the school to ask how you can share these materials.
  5. If the college will accept a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI), write a draft and proof it carefully before you send it.
  6. Work hard on your academics to make sure your midyear grades are the best that they can possibly be.


  1. Cheer, scream, do whatever you need to celebrate. Feel free to share the news with anyone in your family that is not involved with a senior applying to college. (If you have cousins or other family members that are seniors, wait to share your news with them).
  2. As you begin to share the news with the general public, be aware that many of your peers might not have received good news-they might have received a denial or a deferral. Be thoughtful and sensitive as to how you decide to share your acceptance(s).
  3. Let your guidance office know about your acceptances.
  4. Be sure to send an email to the teachers (and anyone else) that wrote you a letter of recommendation.
  5. If you were accepted Early Decision, make sure that you pull any applications that you have submitted to other colleges.
  6. If you have been accepted to any colleges, as a courtesy, let them know you will not be attending.
  7. Read the information in your acceptance letter to see if there are other steps you need to take in your portal. Some schools will expect you to submit a deposit by a certain date or fill out other paperwork to enroll.
  8. Keep your grades up and enjoy the rest of your senior year!

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