Deferrals cause a lot of angst, mostly because of the uncertainty of what it means. Was your application not good enough? Well, that can’t be 100% the case, because you weren’t rejected. If they liked me, then why didn’t they just accept me?
Obviously, deferred -> accepted and deferred -> rejected are both possible outcomes, not to mention deferred -> waitlisted. But which of these outcomes is more likely?
A deferral most likely means that your application was reasonably strong but they had one or two lingering concerns about admitting you. These slight doubts could be:
- Awards-based, if you applied as a “pointy” applicant. You made the USAMO, but there will probably be IMO applicants. They’re waiting to see how many of those they get. Bolster your app by highlighting other things, like new awards you’ve won, and if you don’t have those, something related to the subject but done in a different capacity, like teaching elementary school kids math.
- Not enough activities, if you applied as a well-rounded applicant. They might have some doubts about whether your participation in choir for one year shows an interest in trying new things, or an inability to commit.
- Simply, demographics. If they filled out all their seats for upstate New York in the Early round, they might be missing out on great RA applicants.
Which one of these categories you fall under is dependent on your application. If you post your stats in the comments, I’m happy to give more advice! Good luck!