In the wake of early applications, many students have found themselves in limbo with some of their top-choice colleges: neither accepted nor denied, but rather deferred to the regular decision pool of applicants.

What do I make of a deferral? What does it mean?

A lot of students are prone to interpreting a deferral as a rejection. It’s not—emphatically!

In most cases, it actually means that you fulfill the admissions committee’s standards for acceptance—otherwise, they’d do you the courtesy of saying no, and then you’d move on with your life.

It also usually means that you were part of remarkable group of applicants—so many that it was difficult for the admissions counselors to make a decision. By placing you into the regular pool of applicants, they’re giving themselves an opportunity to get more context, and to make sure that they’re not squeezing out other stellar students who have yet to submit their applications.

They may also want to see more from you: how much does that college really mean to you? If you applied Early Action and are not bound to attending if they were to admit you, then how can they feel confident that you’ll attend when given the option?

Here’s where the Letter of Continued Interest comes in. I offer students the following points of advice:

Follow directions! If a college expressly requests that you send no further materials…then don’t. Disregarding their instructions is not going to help your case. If a college states a preference for how to reaffirm your enthusiasm (such as Tulane’s Continued Interest form, for instance), make sure to use that pathway.

Before you begin your writing, do a little more exploration: make contact with current students who share your interests or background in order to gather more details for why you want to attend (you could also reach out to a professor in your department of choice or reconnect with your alumni interviewer).

Make your address personal: make sure that you’re writing to someone specific in the admissions office—preferably your region’s representative.

At the outset of your letter, reaffirm that you’re grateful to be included in the second round of consideration; acknowledge the scope and difficulty of admissions officials’ job, and NEVER show a hint of frustration, disappointment, or other negative emotion.

Present new details on why you’d like to attend; don’t rehash your original application. This is why you’re looking for the inside scoop from current or former members of that campus community.

Share developments in your personal aspirations: recent academic accomplishments (e.g., an A on a major paper and why it was important to you), exposure to new subject matter that impacts your choice of major or minor, or new realizations about what you want from your college experience (and connect them to what that college specifically has to offer).

Make important updates to your application: improved SAT/ACT scores, a new undertaking through your school club, placing in the championship of your sport, breaking a fundraising record during your winter donations drive, etc.

Submit your letter before the end of January. The sooner they receive the letter, the more authentic your interest seems; you replied without hesitation. However, making some time to gather together your research and updates is also important. Since admissions committees will have begun reviewing regular-deadline applications shortly after January 1st, you don’t want to wait much longer to make your letter part of your application.

Need examples? There are plenty of threads online about Letters of Continued Interest: check out these links from ThoughtCo, CollegeVine, and Reddit. Good luck!