Did You Receive a Deferred Decision? Advice from an Admissions Counselor

Author: Maria Finan


Our office released Restrictive Early Action decision letters on December 13, and for most, this resulted in a definitive decision—admit or deny. But for a smaller group of students, the news was a bit more ambiguous: a deferred decision. If you received this decision, you may be asking yourself: 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. Since we receive about a third of our total applications during the Restrictive Early Action cycle, our staff wants the chance to evaluate a deferred student’s application 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 very 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? What can you do to ensure that 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 senior year grades. Many high school counselors will do this automatically, but if not, be sure to ask for your grades to be sent. 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 the portal is 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 the required academic teacher letter and optional counselor letter, which you 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, you will want to write a letter of desire explaining why you believe Notre Dame is the best school for you. This letter of desire is a great opportunity to tell the admissions committee a little bit more about yourself, and to explain why you would love to attend Notre Dame. 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. You have eagerly been awaiting your college decisions, and if you were deferred, you don’t currently have the clarity or finality you were probably hoping for right now. Our best advice is to relax and enjoy your senior year. You only get to experience this time once—don’t spend your time worrying right now! You will hear from us in late March when we release our Regular Decision notifications.

Please submit any Defer Updates to us by March 1 for our consideration. We will be able to view all documents uploaded to your 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 admissions counselor for the following areas: California (excluding Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and East Ventura counties), Colorado, Oregon, and Washington Learn more.