Part of the college application process is acclimating to a new glossary of terms and acronyms, some of which are more intuitive than others. As we move into the final part of the application cycle and seniors receive notices from the schools to which they applied, it is important to familiarize oneself with the different responses they might hear.

Acceptance — Congratulations! If your student is accepted into a college, then they are guaranteed entry to the upcoming first-year class. Along with a notice of acceptance, universities will often provide an outline of the financial aid package that includes any merit- or need-based scholarships awarded directly from the school. It’s not unusual for the financial aid letter to come a couple weeks later, but merit aid is often mentioned in the acceptance letter. Eventually, your student will have to confirm their attendance at the school they decide on, but it’s best to wait until your student has heard back from all of the schools on their list before they make that final decision. Once you have all of your options secured, contact your IEC at Strategies to prepare for the next steps. If you applied early decision, you have a limited amount of time to discuss and decide if you will accept the offer. Please be in touch with your advisor.

Denial — In the case of a “no,” there isn’t much else to be done. It is important to remember that there are countless factors behind the scenes that could result in your student’s application being denied, many of which are out of their control. Remind your child that they tried their best and that there are many other options still available. Though a denial is undoubtedly disappointing, it is most certainly not the end of the world!

Waitlist — When a student is put on a waitlist, it means that the school has reviewed the student’s application and may consider accepting them in the future, depending on the number of other students who end up confirming their attendance. Essentially, a waitlisted student got into the program, but there is not enough space in the program for them to attend. If other accepted students decide to go to school elsewhere, spots may open up in the program. This is not guaranteed, though, and it may not be until May 1st or even later before the school provides your student with a definitive acceptance. It is important to have a backup plan if the school at which your student is waitlisted doesn’t end up accepting them. It’s generally better to focus on the guaranteed acceptances and keep the waitlisted school in your proverbial back pocket until you’ve gotten confirmation from every college on your list.

Deferral — When it comes to college application results, there are two kinds of deferrals: one made by colleges and one made by students. The first is when a college has reviewed a student’s application and postpones their final decision until a later date. They may need more information, such as additional test scores, a mid-year report card, or another letter of recommendation, as a result of the student applying for early decision (ED) or early action (EA). It is important to read the deferral letter carefully and check your college portal every day to see what other documents or information the admissions officers may be requesting, and whether this information has been received and processed by the school. If a student’s ED application is deferred, it is no longer binding, and students may explore other options beyond that particular college.

The second kind of deferral is when a student is accepted to a college and the student chooses to delay their own attendance, either by a semester or a whole school year. This decision may be due to a number of reasons, such as family circumstances, taking a gap year, wanting to be able to attend in-person classes, or other factors. If a student is accepted and decides to defer their attendance, they must communicate this decision to the admissions officers, outlining their plans for the interim semester/year, and then receive confirmation of the deferral from the school. This should ideally be done in the springtime around April, though it may be possible to wait until the first tuition payments are due in July or even August. Make sure that the financial parameters of the deferral—maintaining any scholarship offers, for example—are clearly laid out. The initial financial aid package offered upon a student’s acceptance may not be available if the student decides to defer their attendance. Following the gap semester/year, it may be necessary to reapply for any scholarships or financial aid so that the tax information is current.


This time of year can be an anxious one as students begin to see the results of all their hard work during the application process. As the responses come in from colleges, there will be excitement, relief, disappointment, and a lot of waiting. Students should continue to concentrate on their current schoolwork and activities—even as they begin to see their future really come into focus, it is important that they don’t lose sight of the present moment.