Deferred Decision? Advice on What to Do Next from a Notre Dame Admissions Counselor

Author: Maria Finan


Admissions released Restrictive Early Action decisions in mid-December, and for most, this resulted in a final decision: admit or deny.

But for some the news was slightly more ambiguous: a deferred decision. If you received this decision, you may be asking, "What does that mean?"

Quite simply, a deferred decision means that the admissions committee is not yet ready to make a final decision on your application. We receive about a third of our total applications during the Restrictive Early Action cycle. If your application was deferred, our staff wants the chance to evaluate it within the context of the larger Regular Decision pool.

While we know that a deferral is probably not the news you were hoping for, it is important to keep in mind that a deferral is not the end of the admissions process. We are deliberate about which students we choose to defer, and we only defer a student if we feel that they will be competitive later in the process. 

So, what now?

Use this time to ensure your application continues to look its strongest. 

Here are our top five tips for deferred applicants:

1. Send your first semester grades.

The most important update you can send is your first semester grades from your senior year. Many high school counselors will do this automatically, but if not, be sure to ask for your grades to be sent to us.

We want to see that you are maintaining your strong academic performance throughout your senior year, especially if you are taking high-level, rigorous courses. Any changes in GPA or class rank can be helpful in our evaluation process.

2. Include notable extracurricular accomplishments or awards.

You should update us on any significant extracurricular accomplishments or awards that you receive after the Restrictive Early Action decision release. This could include things like a new leadership role, recognition after a sports season ends, or a service impact award. The easiest and fastest way to send updates is to upload additional materials via your applicant status portal. You can email your regional admissions counselor, but using your applicant status portal is strongly recommended. You do not need to send numerous updates —a compiled list is ideal!

3. Do not send additional letters of recommendation.

We generally do not encourage additional letters of recommendation beyond those submitted with your original application. We will review additional letters submitted on your behalf, but this is usually not the best way to strengthen your application.

4. Send a heartfelt letter of interest.

If Notre Dame is truly one of your first-choice schools, or if it is your dream school, write a letter of desire explaining why you believe Notre Dame is the best school for you. This letter is a great opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about yourself, and to explain why you would love to attend Notre Dame.

Think beyond why you want to attend Notre Dame, and be sure to include what you hope to bring to the Notre Dame community. You can upload this letter directly to your applicant status portal, where the admissions committee will be able to review it. If needed, you can email it to your admissions counselor, but there is no need to do both. 

5. Be patient.

We know that this can be a stressful process and that this has been a tough year. You have been eagerly awaiting your college decisions, and if you were deferred, you don’t have the clarity or finality you were probably hoping for right now.

Our best advice is: relax and focus on the things that bring you joy. You only get to experience this period in your life once—so enjoy your senior year as much as possible! You will hear from us in late March when we release our Regular Decision notifications.

Submitting Updates:

Please submit any Defer Updates for our consideration by February 15, 2021.

We will view all documents uploaded to your applicant status portal and will review them as part of our process. If you have a particularly noteworthy update to share after that date, please email it to your admissions counselor as soon as possible.

As always, if you have any additional questions, please reach out to your admissions counselor. We are happy to help!


Maria Finan is an assistant director of admissions for the following areas: Colorado and California (excluding South Bay, Long Beach, and South/South Central LA); Hong Kong, Guangdong Province, and Macau. Learn more.