I Got Deferred From Columbia ED. What Now and Why?

Hey everyone,

so I just received news that I got deferred from Columbia’s ED.

This has always been the college that I truly want to go to, and I’m not entirely sure what else to do (I applied [MIT] too, but that’s quite unlikely lol). I really really really want to get in, and I’m so scared that I won’t get in through the regular decision. I’m thinking that I will still do a number of other college applications (to widen my chances elsewhere), but when its January/February, I have a few major competitions that I think I stand a good chance in, which might be enough to push it over. Would I be allowed to send a letter updating Columbia on my endeavors?

I’m petrified that I won’t be able to get in. I thought I stood a good chance, but now I’m seriously rethinking if I’m really good enough, or where my application went wrong. PLEASE any advice would be a life-saver. Here are my stats/info:

Demographic: Asian-American Male :’(
High School/Location/Other: Mediocre High School. Not very competitive. I’m middle-income.
Applying To: Biomedical Engineering (I should’ve applied mechanical).
GPA: 96
SAT: 1550, Math 2 SAT: 770 (oof).
**APs(**Could be the problem): Physics C: Mech (4 oof), Biology (4 oof), BC Calc (5), Gov (4), USH (5), World (5),
Current APs: Physics C: E & M, MicroEconomics, Chemistry, Language and Composition, Statistics.
Not Valedictorian and there are no school rankings.


  • My father works there.
  • I’ve worked as a research employee there are as well.
  • I’ve volunteered at Columbia’s Open Houses for 3 years.
  • I interned for a research program at Columbia as well. (Graduate Engineering Research Program).

5 Honors: (100 characters)

  • First Author of a peer-reviewed research paper.
  • 1st place international team, $10,000, The Mars City Design Competition.
  • NYAS Junior Academy
  • 3rd place DECA NY, Career Development Project, ICDC Contender.

10 ECs:

  • Scientific Research
    • Student Researcher at Columbia University Lamont-Doherty.
    • Columbia University.
    • Performed research on nanocrystal filtration of formaldehyde to address vaping, and on N95 mask disinfection.

(Might want to note that other researchers participated in the published research, including my father, but I did contribute significantly more, and since it was by large my own, I was the firth author). (In addition, my previous research with nanocrystal technology was postponed due to COVID).

  • Engineering Research Internship

ENGI E3900 Summer Undergraduate Research Intern.

  • Columbia University.
  • Designed and performed research on self-tracking solar panels, to drastically increase energy efficiency with Dr.Yin and several undergraduates.
  • NovaCrypt
    • Founder and CEO
    • Founded and run a student organization dedicated to building research projects, with 3000 users and 7 subsidiaries.

(I know, I know. With the recent influx of “NPOs” and “Startups”, this is nearly worthless. However, I genuinely will continue this way past high school, and started in Late March (before all the other NPOs in June). In addition, I feel that it’s way more legitimate and not just an Instagram with a WordPress website).

  • Robotics

    • FIRST Robotics Competition.
    • FRC is the largest student robotics competition globally, with over 91,000 students and 27 countries. I spent 3500+ hours in mechanical engineering.
  • Nexus Aurora:

    • Machinery + Equipment Design Team at Nexus Aurora
    • The Mars Society
  • NYAS:

    • Junior Researcher + Team Leader
    • New York Academy of Sciences.
    • Selected as the top 6% of over 17,000 applicants across over 100 countries, I am the Team Leader of a project for telemedicine using machine learning.
  • DECA

    • DECA
    • I competed in the Career Development Project, and won 3rd place in NY State DECA, and our team was selected to compete Internationally (ICDC).
  • Team Artemis

    • The Moon Society
    • Team Artemis is a competitor in the $1,000 Moon Base Design Competition, dedicated to designing the next generation of moon technology and plans.
  • Conrad Challenge:

    • Conrad Foundation
    • Our team is a competitor in the Conrad Challenge, building a swarm of drones to clean the great pacific garbage patch using A.I. and machine learning.
  • Wharton Investment Challenge:

    • Wharton, [University of Pennsylvania]
    • Team Capitalist is a competitor in the Wharton Global Investment Competition, simulating $100,000 of investment strategies and portfolios.

I have more extracurriculars and projects I did, but I didn’t add them or they are incoming (by the end of December).

In my opinion, I think that my mediocre grades might be the factor (my APs and GPA), and perhaps my ECs were not good In addition, I essentially wasted my freshman and sophomore year, and so most of my ECs are only Junior + Early Senior year. It wasn’t because of a need to improve my college apps (I’m going to continue grinding and tryhard research and everything), but because I was stupid back then. Perhaps, the late-ECs could be seen as a last-ditch attempt? Maybe by continuing my ECs, I can prove I’m not? Maybe since all my ECs are mechanical engineering, and applying BME was a dumb idea? I read somewhere that colleges tend to defer legacy students, to let them down gently. Maybe I would’ve gotten rejected if not for the legacy? Also, I could share my essays and other stuff later if that helps.

Thank you so much, sorry for asking for help, but I’m genuinely terrified and not sure what I can do. Any advice would be great.

PS: I’m considering applying to [Stanford], Princeton, [MIT] (possibly again), [Caltech], and [Harvard](in addition to the non-highly prestigious but still t20 schools). I’m guessing I don’t have a chance right?

Your profile is certainly impressive and you are definitely qualified for many top schools. However, there are a few things I can point out that may have put you in the deferral group:

First, when you describe the Moon Base Design Competition, Conrad Challenge, and Investment Challenge, it seems as though you just competed, and your team didn’t necessarily qualify for the next level or win awards - top schools usually don’t care about participation, unless participating changed you in the context of your personality or perspectives (a great topic for essays).

Second, while your research ECs are absolutely solid (congrats on that!), your school-related ECs may not be enough in terms of what Columbia is looking for. Example: Harvard rates applicants on ECs from 1 to 6 (1 being the highest), Princeton from 1 to 5 (1 being the highest), and Yale from 1 to 9 (9 being the highest). The highest scores for each of these three schools as it pertains to ECs usually involve significant involvement in state/national EC leadership. I don’t think that being EVP of HS DECA and President of the HS FRC Team will necessarily qualify you for the highest rating in Columbia’s admissions system (however they judge applicants).

Lastly, I would just like to emphasize that your GPA, AP exam scores, and SAT I score are all excellent. The SAT Math 2 Score may have hurt your application a little bit, especially since you applied for engineering, since a score of 770 puts you around the 60th percentile.

However, I believe you were definitely a solid contender for Columbia and you have a really good chance in the RD round. Hope this helps!

There are no “non-highly prestigious“ t-20 schools.

What match schools have you applied to?

Do you have an affordable safety?

What is your budget?

Given your many connections at Columbia, you might be able to get a better sense from them as to what you need to do to get admitted RD. Had I not seen your decision, I would have guessed that you would get in as you have the faculty hook and nothing disqualifying in your stats.

Winning a major competition is, for any student, an excellent thing to add to your application when it is being reconsidered.

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You have a solid application. I would write a strong letter of continued interest, basically a love letter to Columbia and why it would be a perfect match for you and the school. You could wait to do this until you hear about your competition unless it will be close to decision time in which case I would send in a letter now and an update after the competition. My D was deferred from Caltech and wrote a heartfelt letter which I think played a role in her eventual acceptance.

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I agree to hold off on sending the LOCI…maybe along with good semester 1 grades, or other pertinent updates. So, late Jan/early Feb.

Good luck.

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Thanks! That definitely helps!

Sadly, I wasted my freshman and sophomore years and didn’t really do anything then. I only started to seriously work hard in Junior year, because something clicked in me, and I just decided to get to work.

Junior year was spent working on my previous research (I spent hundreds of hours on it), but due to the extent of the project, none of it was seen (COVID19 prevented me from finishing). I moved on and started a new research project, which eventually did get published. Only after I did the research did I begin a lot of competitions and other projects (hence why so many happened Junior-Senior year and results did not come out). So sadly, I don’t have too many other ECs to write about. I think these were better options than to write down the minor awards and stuff I received, like the National Merit Commended Scholar or whatever.

I believe for the year I took the Math 2 Sat, I actually got a 75th percentile or something (harder year), but yeah they can’t really see that I’m guessing.

Thanks! I have some projects that will be coming through this month or so, hopefully it’ll be enough.

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Being from the NYC area only increases your personal competition. You have no control over that.

And yes, your resume shown here is nearly all stem related. Always good to show a tippy top some rounding.

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OP- you sound fantastic.

There are only two things to do right now-

1- prepare your letter of interest for Columbia and give it your best shot.
2- forget about Columbia- for the time being- and find a couple of schools where you are sure to get admitted to, which your family can afford, and where you can thrive.

You love Columbia- they know that, you applied ED. You have multiple family connections there- they know that too. You worked at Columbia. They know that. For whatever reason that none of us know- you got deferred.

Now you need to fall in love with a few more colleges which are NOT Columbia which ought to be easy since there are several thousand of them in the US!

Continuing to focus on Columbia is not helping you. You’ve been deferred, you’ll either get in in April or you won’t. Trust me- there are dozens of colleges which you could fall in love with if you’d give yourself the chance.

Applying to Cal Tech, Harvard, Stanford, etc. as the “solution” to not getting admitted to Columbia is beyond illogical. Sure- apply there. But presumably you’ve learned enough statistics to know that buying four lottery tickets doesn’t change the math of the lottery.

Relying on some competitions in January/February to push you in-- yet another lottery ticket. Great- so you know own 5 lottery tickets. It’s like the guy who spends $100 on lottery tickets and then quits his job waiting for the call that he’s won the 50 million dollar jackpot.

Don’t be that guy. Go fall in love with CMU, Pitt, RPI, Vanderbilt, Missouri M&T, UIUC. Then spend the winter pining away for your lottery tickets, knowing that you’ve got some solid prospects in the pile as well.


Wow, thanks for all the advice.

I’ll definitely be widening my horizons with different schools as well, those t-20s were just some examples of ones I might just throw my hat in the ring for. I’ve listed around 15 other good schools I’ll apply to, and try my best to have a variety of good options.

I’ll also work on the LOCI letter and hopefully it’ll be enough to push the AO over the edge if I’m borderline.

I was also thinking that if I went into a decent college and did extremely well there, I might also have a second shot at transfering. So yeah, I’ll definitely work on getting myself into a far larger basket of schools and see where it takes me.

Thanks for your advice!

I’m actually just outside the NYC area, so I’m not sure if I really competitions too much here.

I was thinking I could try and round my application a bit more, but the majority of my other activities that aren’t STEM aren’t very impressive or are extremely asian lol. I’ve played piano for 10 years (NYSSMA Lvl 6 in 6th grade, ABRSM (Royal School of Music) Lvl 8 in 9th) and Saxophone for like 7 years, Lvl 6 in 8th). I’ve also played tennis, soccer, swam, and various other things (but to no awards). So I wasn’t sure if those activities would be worth putting in the ECs, especially with there being seemingly cooler options.

@RoboPandaX, Given the upturn in your grades, Columbia may be waiting to see if you can sustain that. I have known hooked kids for whom this was the case. They all got in in the end but had to show that their change of heart and aptitude was more than fleeting.

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I’ll try and make sure my letter is as strong as possible! Though I read somewhere I should try not to make it a sob-story and make it upbeat as much as possible.

There’s a number of good schools I’ve applied to as well, such as RPI, NYU, Stonybrook, and some others as both safeties, and some other matches.

Tbh, I have an infinite budget, because I’m willing to pay and take a loan for whatever is necessary. IMO, education is the most reliable investment, and I’ll do whatever it takes.

Awesome, I’ll definitely try and keep my grades and everything up. I’m partly also guessing that perhaps since I had a sudden chance of pace towards junior/senior year, they might suspect I am doing those projects and competitions for college applications. I’m doing it mostly for the fun, and cause I’m competitive, so I think by continuing it, they might be able to see that.

Great to hear you have applied to some less selective schools.
Unfortunately you don’t have an infinite budget…undergrads can take out $27K max in federal student loans ($5,500 frosh year, then $6.5K/$7.5/$7.5). Any loans above that would be on your parents, which is probably not a good idea.

Oh I wasn’t aware of that.

Columbia also has this thing where faculty and their children actually get full-tuition paid for if you go there, and half paid elsewhere. So I think I might be okay, since the most expensive ones are $55k.


I think there is a tuition exchange thread somewhere. Not all schools are on the exchange so be sure the schools on your list are or are affordable.


Sounds good, I’ll try and take a look! Thanks!