What Does Each College Application Status Mean?

Last updated: Feb 26, 2020

Ah, spring. It’s a time for blooming flowers, rising temperatures, and receiving college admission decisions. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of ecstatic students jumping for joy over receiving an acceptance letter. However, there is a lesser known but equally common reaction that occurs: Tearing open an envelope and wondering “what does my college application status mean?”

To help you avoid falling into the latter category, we’ve compiled the most common college application status meanings and the next steps needed for each.

Admit

If you receive a fat envelope in the mail with an admit decision, congratulations – you’ve been accepted to the university! This is a no-strings-attached decision, meaning you don’t need to meet any additional requirements or submit any additional information.

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Accept the offer: Follow the directions in your letter to accept the offer. Typically, this will include paying a deposit to hold your spot and completing a checklist of items such as registering for orientation, applying for housing, etc.
  • Reject the offer: Be sure to let your admissions recruiter know about your decision so your spot can be offered to another student.

Conditional Admit

An application status of conditional admit means you’ve been accepted to the university, but you’ll need to meet certain criteria in order to enroll. For example, you may be required to start during a semester other than the one you applied for, take part in a special college-readiness program, or complete additional foundation courses.

Why You Received This Status

Top universities have become extremely selective and almost always receive more qualified applications than seats available in the next class – particularly for students seeking a traditional fall semester start. If your application wasn’t competitive for fall semester admission, it may have been evaluated for summer or spring semester admission when fewer applicants seek to enroll.

In addition, admissions officers may have determined that participating in a college-readiness program or taking special courses will ensure you transition to college seamlessly and are ready to meet the academic rigors of a selective university.

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Accept the offer: Follow the directions in your letter to accept the offer. Typically, this will include paying a deposit to hold your spot and completing a checklist of items such as registering for orientation, applying for housing, etc. Be sure to meet the terms of your conditional admission (such as registering for a required program) or your admission could be rescinded.
  • Reject the offer: Be sure to let your admissions recruiter know about your decision so your spot can be offered to another student.

A male student sitting at a table with other students while checking his application status on a laptopReferred

A status of referred could mean many things. If you’re applying for a talent-based program such as music or art, your application may need to be evaluated by staff outside the admissions office. Applicants also might be referred for consideration for a special academic program.

Why You Received This Status 

Students applying to talent-based programs often need to complete additional steps, such as scheduling an audition or submitting a portfolio, in order for the university to make an admission decision. If you are not applying to a talent-based program, your application may be referred to another department that admits students to special programs (for example, first-generation-in-college or 2+2 transfer programs).

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Complete additional requirements: If you’re asked to schedule an audition, submit a portfolio or send in additional information, do so by the stated deadline or your application may be canceled.
  • Wait for a decision: If you weren’t asked to complete any additional requirements, be patient. A decision should arrive soon.
  • Cancel your application: If you decide not to complete additional requirements or elect to attend another university, cancel your application so your spot can be offered to another student.

Deferred

If you receive a status of deferred, you aren’t currently admissible to the university but could be at a later date.

Why You Received This Status

If your grades or test scores are not competitive for admission, the university may want to see your first-term senior year grades, new test SAT/ACT test scores, or in some cases, a personal statement addressing a recent drop in your grades before making a final admission decision.

If you applied to a university as an early decision or early action candidate, a deferral means you weren’t admitted in the early round, but your application will be considered as part of the regular decision pool of applicants.

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Submit any requested information: Ask your guidance counselor for help with submitting your first-term grades or drafting any personal statements. Ask the testing agency to forward your new scores to the university. Be sure to submit all requested information by the deadline, or your application may be canceled.  
  • Wait for a final decision: If no additional information was requested, simply wait for the admissions office to make a decision.
  • Cancel your application: If you decide to attend another university, you may cancel your application.

A high school student sitting on her couch at home reads her collage application response letterWaitlisted

You may receive a status of waitlisted when you are qualified for admission, but there is not currently space available in the incoming class.

Why You Received This Status

Universities with rolling admission evaluate applications as soon as they are received and issue decisions shortly thereafter. If you applied late in the application cycle, you may be qualified for admission, but all slots have been filled already. Alternatively, you may be waitlisted if you qualify for admission, but all spots have been offered to applicants with stronger credentials.

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Wait for a spot to open: If an admitted student chooses not to attend the university, you may be offered admission.
  • Cancel your application: If you decide to attend another university, cancel your application to be removed from the waitlist.

Denied

If you receive a denied status, it means you have not been accepted to the university.  

Why You Received This Status

While it can be hard to acknowledge, you may have been denied for any number of reasons, from grades or test scores that were not competitive to coursework that doesn’t meet minimum academic requirements (such as a certain number of high school math or language courses).

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Apply to a different campus: If you have your heart set on attending this university, you may want to update your application to be considered at a different campus.  
  • Accept the decision: Although it may not be your first choice, consider taking a gap year or attending another four-year university where you were offered admission. Alternatively, you can enroll in a two-year college, earn an associate degree, and reapply to the university for transfer admission in order to complete your bachelor’s degree.
  • Appeal the decision: If you have earned vastly improved senior grades or SAT/ACT scores, or you feel that truly extenuating circumstances were overlooked, you may wish to appeal. Before you go down this path, know that that very few appeals are granted.

Cancelled

A status of cancelled means your application has been canceled voluntarily or by the Office of Admissions.

Why You Received This Status

Either you elected to cancel your application, or the Office of Admissions cancelled it for failure to pay an application fee or submit requested information by the deadline.

Your Options/What to Do Next

  • Nothing: If you cancelled your application voluntarily, there is nothing else you need to do.
  • Contact Admissions: If your application was cancelled and you believe it was an error, contact the Office of Admissions for assistance.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of your college application status meaning, but if you still have questions, don’t go it alone. Please reach out to the admissions recruiter at the universities where you’ve applied for assistance. For students who have applied to USF, contact the USF Office of Admissions for help, either online or by phone at 813-974-3350.

Want quick access to the application status definitions in this article? Download our glossary so it’s handy whenever you need it.

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