Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Decisions, decisions, decisions

by Mr. Michael Wagner

So many decisions

Seniors are beginning to receive admissions decisions from college applications that were submitted this fall. As straightforward as the decision process can be—either being admitted or denied—there is often confusion when other decisions are received, specifically being waitlisted or deferred. Let’s look at the difference between the two.

A notification that you are waitlisted means that the school has not made a firm decision—the student is being told that they “might” be accepted. It means your application has been fully reviewed and they are waiting to see if they will have a spot for you.

A notification that you have been deferred means that the school has decided that student will not be accepted for an early admissions decision. It also means that the application has not been fully reviewed but will be at a later date. However, the applicant may be accepted later after the full review.

In some cases when a student is waitlisted or deferred, the school may request additional information such as test scores or updated grades. They may also request an interview or require a written essay.
yes no signs on paper


So, what does it mean to be waitlisted? It means that the applicant has successfully submitted all the required application materials needed to apply. It also means that the applicant has met all the necessary qualifications to be considered for admission and that the applicant’s materials have been reviewed by an admissions representative. However, at the time the application was received and reviewed, the school could not make an offer of acceptance. Understand that being waitlisted does not mean that a student is being denied. It truly means that the final admissions decision has not been rendered and the student is still eligible for receiving an acceptance.

There are a variety of reasons that colleges and universities waitlist applicants. The most common reason is the space a school has available for incoming freshman to the first year of college. It allows schools to review the number of committed students who have accepted offers from the school to get a better idea of how many additional students they have room for. Another reason may be that the applicant is in a “grey” area of the admissions process, meaning that the applicant may not have strong credentials compared to other applicants. This allows the school to review the applications once again, sometimes with additional information, before accepting wait-listed students.

neon wait sign


A deferred application decision occurs during the early decision or early action process. A deferral is when a school has decided to review the application at a later date to render a decision. This means that the student’s application has not met the standards for early admission but could still be accepted later.

Not all colleges and universities issue deferral decisions; some schools will only offer acceptances or denials. Students should research the admissions policies for each college or university they are considering to understand what decision results will be used.

student with head on arm

Demonstrate interest

Receiving a deferral or waitlist decision may prompt some students to focus on other colleges and universities on their lists. However, if students are still hoping to gain acceptance, they should be in touch with the school immediately to discuss what steps can be taken to increase their chances of receiving a positive response. This is an excellent opportunity for applicants to demonstrate interest in the school, allowing them another opportunity to articulate why they want to attend the school and why they should be accepted.

splitting rail tracks

It is important for students understand the possible outcomes of the college application process. Having a clear understanding of the admissions policies of each school will help students make informed decisions and deal with the stress and anxiety that often accompanies the process.   

Mr. Michael J. Wagner

Michael Wagner, MAED is a founder and the Knowledge Pilot for Launch Education.  Mr. Mike has assisted hundreds of students around the world on their college pathways.