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December 18, 2022

I Just Got Deferred from my Dream School

By Aaliyah D.
, 12th grade
, from Oakland, CA

I’d been waiting for months for the day early admissions decisions would be posted. Ever since I visited my top choice school back in tenth grade, I knew it was the school for me. I fell in love with everything about it, so I did all the right things to make my application strong. I got straight A’s in rigorous classes. I studied hard for the SAT and got the scores I wanted. I did interesting activities at school and outside of school. I edited my application essays over and over and showed them to my English teacher. My counselor said I was extremely qualified for this school and that  my teachers wrote strong recommendations.

I also knew the acceptance rate was low, meaning a lot of qualified applicants don’t get in, but for some reason, I thought I had a great chance because the school felt like the perfect fit for me—and I thought the admissions committee would see that too.

My heart was beating like crazy when I logged in to get the decision. I had imagined this moment for years, and in my mind, it was always a celebratory one. I pictured screaming, putting on the sweatshirt I’d bought on campus, taking pictures, and going out with friends to celebrate. But when I saw “Deferred” I couldn’t believe it. I literally thought I was in the middle of a nightmare and any second, I’d wake up and see that I’d actually gotten in. 

But I was definitely awake, and sobbing. It felt like all my hard work and effort had gone to waste, and I kept wondering what went wrong. I broke down, and I couldn’t stop these questions from juggling their way through my mind: what should I have done differently? What had the admissions committee seen in the admitted students that they hadn’t seen in me? Why did I sacrifice so much during my high school years only to be in this limbo of deferral, where everyone says it’s harder to get in during the regular round because they admit a large percentage of the class early? I had done so much, worked so hard but I had nothing to show for it.

After a couple days of this, my mom said something that helped. She put her arms around me and said, “It’s okay to feel sad and frustrated. I know how disappointed you are. We don’t know what’s going to happen when regular decisions come out, and hopefully it will work out at this school, but if it doesn’t, you will be just fine. So while you’re grieving this, let’s look at the big picture. There are many other schools you’ll be happy at. I’m sure of it. Let’s focus on getting those applications in and looking at what excites you about those schools.”

Her words shook me out of my despondent state and gave me a new perspective, one I hadn’t considered when my sole focus had been on getting into this one school. Being deferred or rejected from a certain college isn’t the end of the world, and there are steps I could take to move forward.

It can be tempting to wallow in disappointment and feel like all your options are closed off, but if anyone else is dealing with the same thing right now, it’s important to remember that there are many other amazing colleges out there, and being rejected from one doesn’t mean that I won’t be accepted by many others. I’m now taking action by reaching out to other schools on my list and submitting applications to them. I feel like my application is strong, but for anyone who might be evaluating whether they want to strengthen their application, there’s also the option of taking a gap year and using it to take additional coursework or get an internship in an area  you’re passionate about, then applying with this stronger application next year.

My counselor also reminded me that being deferred or rejected from a college isn’t a reflection of my worth or abilities. Admissions decisions are based on a variety of factors that an applicant has no control over, such as the number of applicants that year, the school’s enrollment goals (what majors they need to fill, what city or state you’re from, athletics recruits, legacies), and the availability of resources. The admissions officer could have also just been having a bad day. Keeping a positive attitude and an open mind about the things I can control are helping me move forward.

If I’m being honest, I’lI still hope I get into my dream school, and I’ll still be disappointed if I don’t, but I’m also seeing that there are other great possibilities, and I wish I’d had that mindset going into this instead of focusing on one school as the only one for me. That’s my advice to anyone in high school, and I’m going to take it myself now as I get this next round of applications in.

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