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Last week I wrote about college deferrals and I received an email from a reader with this question, "What does it mean if you're on a 'wait-list' as opposed to being deferred? My granddaughter received notification from Clemson that she was wait-listed."

Deferrals apply to early admissions programs with early deadlines, usually by Dec. 1. When a student applies either Early Decision (binding) or Early Action (nonbinding), their application can be "deferred" to the regular admission applicant pool, where it will be reconsidered.

A student who applies during the regular decision period, with deadlines prior to Feb. 1, will receive one of three outcomes: accepted, denied or wait-listed. Regular decision notifications are being released throughout March and early April.

Here are some of the next steps if you're deferred or wait-listed.

1. Find out, if you can, what was missing. Contact the college and see if you can determine where your application was lacking. Were they hoping you had stronger grades, test scores, more leadership activities, more community service? If you already have addressed any of these issues in your first semester, then make sure you communicate all the details in a letter to the admissions office.

2. Send a new letter of recommendation.

3. Write a well-crafted letter. Don't waste what is likely to be your last opportunity with the admissions office by sending them anything less than your best effort. You'll need to write a powerful letter telling them why they should reconsider and accept you. Share your thoughts on what you think you can bring to their college community. Here are things to consider:

* Give an accurate update of what's gone on since submitting your application. This part of your letter can include: any awards or prizes or scholarships you've received, conferences you've attended, a recap of your first-semester grades with an update on your new GPA, and new, hopefully improved, rank in class after first semester senior year.

* Be polite and respectful.

* Be upbeat: Don't whine or complain about your deferral. Don't sound desperate or panicked.

* Be confident, yet humble. It is a fine line between the two, but I once read a deferral letter that actually accused the admissions office of not doing their job well because "otherwise you wouldn't have missed the opportunity to accept me." Be careful of unwarranted overconfidence, especially in a letter that can be passed around the admissions office, which can be a deal breaker.

4. Be creative if you think you have a great idea. You don't have a lot to lose. Yale was Jackie Milestone's first choice, but she was deferred. She decided to create a music video to tell them how much she wanted to attend Yale. Watch it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n20bwnG1EsY) and let me know what you think.

5. Have a backup. You might get accepted, but you might not. Take a closer look at the colleges where you were accepted.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.