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Deferred? How to Re-Energize Your Application

By Robert LeVine

In early December, many college applicants are mourning the fact that their dream schools have deferred them to Regular admission. Intelligent strategy can enhance your chances in March and April.

The first part of effective deferral strategy is timing. Choosing when to communicate with admissions offices involves understanding the timing of their duties. In the first half of January, admissions representatives are busy reviewing regular admission candidates and conducting subcommittee meetings. Beginning in March, they are making final class selections. Try to connect with them in between their meetings. The best time to communicate with your favorite colleges is during the last half of January or first week of February.

If possible, connect directly with the admissions representative covering your geographic region. Many college admissions websites list that information online. If the contact information is not readily available, try calling the admissions office and asking for it. Otherwise, send an e-mail, letter or overnight package to the admissions office, being sure to indicate your high school, hometown and state.

What should you tell them? First, emphasize that their college remains your first choice university. Second, show your continued interest in your activities, including an update on things you have done since you applied to the college. Demonstrate depth and initiative. Remember to be brief. A good deferral update should not exceed one paragraph. You want to give them extra information, not more work.

Everything you send, and every phone call you make, is entered in a log. Badgering a college admissions office is not a good strategy. Never try to influence them with gifts, and do not ask alumni and important people send new recommendations through backdoor channels.

Finally, your high school counselor can provide tremendous support for you. This is the time of year when counselors make phone calls and write e-mails to colleges on behalf of their students. Meet with your counselors, provide them an update on your status and your activities, and ask if they will make an effort on your behalf to contact your first-choice college.

Now is also the time to work on your other college applications. Take another look at your personal statement, and have someone with expertise take a look, too. Spend time and effort on your “supplemental” college essays, being sure to research the colleges deeply for the “why” and “curricular” essays. They need to know that your decision to apply to their school is intelligent and based on a sophisticated understanding of the college, its curriculum and its environment. If a school uses interviews as part of its admissions process, make sure you practice your interviewing skills effectively.

Be sure that your list of colleges is broad and well-blended. Statistically, the “Ivy League or Bust” strategy usually ends in “bust.” Speak to your counselor or a college professional about schools you may not know which could be a great fit, both environmentally and economically. Give yourself good options.

A deferral is not the end of the world. Your favorite college hasn’t rejected you, but you need to get their attention so that they select you. Also, remember that there are lots of fish in the sea, so do your best work in the final weeks before college application season closes.

Robert A.G. Levine, president of Selective College Consulting Inc., can be reached at (813) 391-3760, email or visit


Why the Political should become the Personal

By Anu Varma Panchal

For those of us who drive around constantly nodding at or waving a fist at something we just heard on news radio, this December is still a highly politically charged bridge between the election and inauguration. Almost everyone I’ve talked to is somewhere on the spectrum between despairing and exultant depending on their candidate, with a fatalistic crowd in the middle aiming for cautious optimism. But no one’s ambivalent. That’s why it astonishes me when I hear of the vast numbers of people who didn’t even bother to vote this year. If everyone now has an opinion, I wonder where they all were when they were given the opportunity to translate that opinion to action.

I remember the first American presidential election in which I was eligible to vote. I was wildly excited: It was a candidate about whom I felt passionate, and after the victory speech was declared late at night, I woke my 3-year-old up to whisper-shout the results to her without waking the baby because I had to celebrate with someone or I would burst. Since then, I’ve voted any time I’ve had the chance, and I’ve always felt gratified at being asked.

According to, only an estimated 58 percent of eligible voters actually voted this year, roughly the same number as in the last presidential election in 2012. Among the Asian crowd, while numbers have been steadily rising with each cycle (and in fact doubling between 2000 and 2012, according to California-based AAPI Data) we lag behind other ethnic groups with only 47 percent of Asian American citizens actually voting, based on 2012 statistics.

For those of us who are immigrants or first-generation Americans, voting is one crucial way to pull a chair up to the table. Voting enables us to become participants in the conversation rather than just bystanders, and participating is the measure of our belonging in a community. As long as we sit back and treat the election as something that affects other people, we ourselves will always be the “other people.” Not participating means not being the ones setting the agenda in matters as important as education, healthcare, taxation, environment and immigration policy.

The beauty of the system is that (in theory at least), everyone belongs simply by virtue of being a legal citizen. In civic participation, pedigree doesn’t matter. A ballot does not differentiate between the person who was naturalized a few months prior to the election or the Mayflower descendent. Your accent, the holiday you celebrate and where you worship — none of these can reduce the weight of your choice once the ballot has been fed into the machine.

For those of us who are parents of young children, this responsibility is even more important. If children see us falter at the threshold as if unsure of our reception, they’ll hang back too, hesitant to claim their place at the party. Seeing parents who feel as though their voice matters can confer a sense of belonging to a child who may be feeling their way through the dichotomy of their hyphenated existence. I took my daughters with me to vote because I wanted them to see how it was both an obligation that should be honored as well as a privilege.

This election may be over, but that doesn’t mean civic participation has to be suspended until 2020. It doesn’t all have to be political; even something as simple as volunteering in our kids’ schools is a way to demonstrate our commitment. In between elections, there are many ways to engage and participate, whether by signing or even starting petitions, following the success or failures of initiatives we supported, and keeping up on the news to hold the people we voted for accountable. Look at how years of community activism finally got us an official Diwali stamp this year. Intellectual engagement aside, you never know when an issue might assume personal importance in your own life. As the ancient Greek statesman Pericles cautioned: “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

Anu Varma Panchal is a mother of two and owner of

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