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The Road to College Admissions: What I Learned After Being Deferred From My Dream School

Allow me to get the bad news out of the way first: I got deferred from my Early Decision school. I had applied to a very competitive school, so this wasn’t necessarily a surprise — it had actually been the most probable outcome. But I won’t say it wasn’t disappointing.

As much as I’d tried not to get my hopes up, I’d slowly put all of my hopes and dreams into my ED school, which, for the sake of this column, we’ll call Green College. I visited twice, thought about it every day, and imagined myself going there. I poured myself into Green’s writing supplements. I kept a Green College t-shirt at the top of my t-shirt drawer and looked at it every morning (but never wore it because I didn’t want to jinx myself).

Suddenly, in mid-December, I was faced with a harsh reality I had known existed but hadn’t wanted to face. At first, I was devastated. I sat on my couch and stared at my computer screen blankly: We have elected to postpone your admissions decision. 

I refreshed the page multiple times. Please be a mistake, I thought desperately. Obviously, it wasn’t. But I slowly got over my initial disappointment and realized that, hey—a deferral may not have been what I wanted, but it was certainly better than a rejection. And let’s be honest, it’s great material for this blog.

It’s still possible for me to get into my Early Decision school (although, going by the numbers, the chances are undeniably slim). The thing is, I’m okay with that. I’d love to go to Green, but in the long run, getting deferred has been good for me. It forced me to complete applications to more colleges, which made me realize that there isn’t just one school I’d be happy at—there are probably dozens. For months I’d filled my thoughts to the brim with Green, Green, and more Green. But stepping away from that school allowed me to focus on others and become more aware of my options. In addition, it gave me a little more of a say in my application process. I was no longer bound to one college, so I was free to apply wherever my heart desired. Since control is often unattainable in this process, the opportunity to make my own decisions was amazing (I obviously can’t control whether or not I’m admitted to the schools I’ve applied to, but that’s another story).

Since my deferral, I’ve had the opportunity to interview at several other schools. I’ve had a ton of fun with these interviews, and they’ve also given me invaluable experience that I’ll draw from down the road. My deferral has also reinforced a few important life lessons—namely, not everything comes easily. Furthermore, it’s reminded me not to take myself so seriously. Before my deferral, I’d been extremely reticent to discuss my applications. I rarely told people where I was applying, mostly because I didn’t want to face them if and when there was bad news. But I’ve since realized that it’s pointless to be secretive—your peers will always rally around you.

The application process is definitely a lot of work, but it’s only stressful if you make it so. It’s much better to have fun with it than it is to act like it’s not happening. So I might be at Green next fall, or I might be somewhere else entirely—I have no idea. I do know, however, that if I approach everything with a sense of humor and an open mind, it’ll all work out in the end.

John Fulton