The majority of students who applied to college using early action or early decision applications receive decision letters in mid to late December.
Many students will receive a letter stating their admission has been deferred and their application will be evaluated with the regular admission applications (regular admission applications typically are evaluated between mid-January and March, depending on the college or university).
To increase your chances for admission as a regular applicant, find out why you were not accepted as an early applicant. Within a few days of receiving word of your deferral, call the admissions office and ask to speak with the officer responsible for your file. Be very respectful and polite; emphasize that their college is your first choice and you are very disappointed with the deferral decision.
Go on to ask if there is anything in particular that held you back from being accepted. If the admission officer gives reasons, you may be able to correct them. If the officer is reluctant to give you a specific reason, politely ask if you have a realistic chance for admission because if there is, you will work toward that end. If it appears you do not have a realistic chance, thank the admission officer and pursue admission to other colleges.
If the admission officer gives specific reasons for your deferral, work to improve your shortcomings. For example, if your SAT/ACT test scores were too low, retake the tests in late January or early February. If your recommendation letters were not strong, ask one of your current teachers to write an additional letter of recommendation. If your GPA is not high enough, work to do well on this semester’s final exams and to earn outstanding grades next semester.
Then, in very early spring, contact the college admission officer again. First, mail a letter (not an email) outlining your recent accomplishments (such as improved SAT/ACT test scores or outstanding grades earned thus far in the spring semester). A few weeks later, call him or her to summarize these accomplishments, and to express your keen interest in attending that school. Hopefully, you will be considered worthy of admission and will receive a notice of acceptance.
One last note: If a decision letter states you have been rejected, and you really want to attend that college, you can appeal the decision. However, be aware that colleges rarely reverse their decisions and accept rejected student applicants.