The college admissions process is far different today than it was even five years ago, and it changes a little each year. To get a head of the game you need to know what the potential outcomes are when a student applies to college, and what they mean. Definitions by Jake Talmage, the Director of College Counseling at the St Paul’s School near Baltimore, MD.
Early Decision Accept– you have agreed to enroll in that school. You have been admitted and need to enroll. Withdraw other applications.
Accept– you have been accepted and have until May 1 to decide where to go.
Defer– typically a result in an early process. The college has deferred you so they can see more information (possibly about your application, possibly about the application pool) before they make a decision. Colleges will typically try to get you a final decision by April 1.
Deny– the college has decided not to offer you a space. Don’t think this is personal. There can be all sorts of reasons beyond your control that affect this. They have denied your application, not you as a person.
Waitlist– the college is holding off to make a decision. Usually, this is offered before April 1 and students will not hear until after May 1 (although that can differ in individual cases).
Conditional admission– while all offers are usually conditional on finishing your high school similar to previous performance, sometimes colleges will add additional conditions. For in- stance, I have had offers to students that required a summer course, etc.
Guaranteed Transfer– a rare offering, but sometimes a college will say “we will admit you as a sophomore” as long as you do the following freshman year
Deferring enrollment– some colleges will let students defer their admission for a year after being admitted so they can pursue a special opportunity. This may be work, travel, etc. It is usually NOT to attend another college.

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