THE BLOG
12/20/2014 05:27 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2015

Accepted, Rejected, Deferred: Holiday Recommendations for High School Seniors

Robert Daly via Getty Images

During this last week before winter holidays, emotions ran high for many high school seniors. Many couldn't focus on critically important final exams or projects, because they were awaiting college admissions decisions as dozens of colleges across America released early decision or early action notifications.

With record numbers of students applying early, top colleges could fill their freshman classes right now -- five to 10 times. Over the past two weeks, rather than deny the majority of applicants they will never ultimately admit, colleges deferred thousands upon thousands of candidates into their regular admissions pools, which again will reach record numbers.

Of course, many ecstatic students received early acceptances. Others were denied. Both of these decisions made it much easier for students to go through the holidays: they can make actual plans. Thousands and thousands of others must go through applying to other colleges, while still holding onto the hope of early admissions to the deferred college(s).

Here are my holidays recommendations to all three groups of high school seniors: accepted, denied, or deferred. These tips will make it easier for the denied and deferred applicants come March and early April-when the next big batch of decisions come out.

Accepted. Congratulations. . However, there is still more you can do over the holidays.
• If you were accepted Early Decision (binding), you know where you're attending next year. Keep up your grades and don't fall into the black hole of senioritis. Please contact any other colleges to which you applied to and withdraw your applications. This will open up spaces for other applicants.
• If you were accepted Early Action (not-binding) to one of your top colleges, can you eliminate colleges from your list? I know it's awesome to receive college acceptance, but you're already admitted to a great college. Can you release other spots for other highly qualified students?
• If you received Early Acceptance to a good, but not your top college, can you narrow down your list to just two to six other colleges? You already have a good option, so how many other options do you need? Careful list management will help you and many others.

Denied. So sorry. You were brave to have applied and should never have any regrets. As you complete your applications over the holidays, try to have as many possible colleges on your list. Your final SAT and ACT scores will come out soon; your first semester grades are almost completed. Please have honest conversations with your counselors and parents about diversifying your list some more and adding colleges to which your stats and profile match.

Deferred. I know it means you still have a chance. But look at the numbers. Colleges deferred thousands of students, of which they will only admit a small portion. So we really need you to look at your college list and make sure you have a nice range of other colleges. Remember, you can also add more information to the deferred college, including fall grades, new accomplishments, and additional recommendations. But focus now, on completing your other applications.

As students finish their applications during winter vacation, let's keep our eye on the prize: students can only attend one four-year college. So let's help them narrow down and diversify their lists. Student may not have received their desired college admissions decision now, but by using their vacation wisely, they can and will receive better news in March.