Know what search term is likely trending on Google, at least among college applicants and their parents?
“How to write a letter of continuing interest.” Not likely many people were familiar with the term before this year’s cycle of college applications gained steam.
It’s a natural progression from searching “What happens when a college defers you?” And this year, according to all reports, that’s happening in record numbers. By the time this column goes to print, some of the dust may have settled. But the incredible number of students receiving deferrals over the last several weeks, leading back to early December, should send up a yellow flag to this year’s high school juniors. Those students will be applying to college this summer and fall, and if that process is anything like this year’s, an increased number of students will be rushing to submit applications via Early Action or even Early Decision. And depending on where they apply, more students may be receiving deferrals rather than early acceptances.
The prepscholar.com blog recently posted a great analysis on this. With a crush of early applications, Admissions offices may have found themselves overwhelmed or at least looking at these early applications with a more selective eye. After all, if everyone is applying everywhere early (hyperbole, yes, but that’s what this cycle started to feel like) then the competition for those early spots got that much tougher. Yes, many great schools have increased their acceptance rates over the last few years – but those are just percentages, and with higher numbers of applications that means the numbers of both acceptances anddeferrals both increased.
How did we get here? It’s important to understand the difference between the two pathways for early applicants. Early Decision is binding – the Common App website will only allow a student to select one school for Early Decision when submitting their applications. But Early Action isn’t, and that’s where it gets complicated. Because there’s basically no restrictions
on how many Early Action applications a student can submit, he or she can submit as many as she wants. (Within reason, of course; most schools now have extra essays as part of the application that are specific to them and what they offer.)
And as with most things in life, part of this can be traced back to COVID. When schools stopped offering things like tours and in-person interviews in 2020 – and almost every SAT and ACT date was cancelled – uncertainty around the application process drove students, their families and even guidance counselors into a bit of a panic. The solution? Apply early to as many places as you can and hope for the best. They would be the high school graduates of 2021 – so as the students of the Class of ’22 looked ahead to their own application process, they tried to emulate those early numbers, and then some. And so on and so forth, until this year – evaluating the Class of ’24 – colleges had to pump the brakes.
So, what does this mean for the Class of 2025? Unfortunately, it’s complicated. These students will likely feel under more pressure than ever to apply to as many schools as they can by the early deadline (typically November 1st) instead of giving themselves those extra two months and applying Regular Decision. Will colleges be better prepared to manage that increased volume? That’s a hard … maybe. Will they be even more selective as the “early” deadline starts to look increasingly like their “regular” deadline? Safe to say, yes.
If you’re the parent of a high school junior, don’t worry: you have time to sort this out and chart your course. Many of those deferrals will turn into “Accepted” emails later on. But watch the College Bound column over the next few issues for complete guidance on how to navigate these new waters and put your child in the strongest possible position this summer and fall!