Are deferrals binding?

I've been accepted to a handful of schools, not elite/Ivys but definitely respectable/ top 15 according to Design Intelligence (I know rankings don't mean much but just wanted to give a sense of my options). However, I'm strongly considering not going this year. Concerns such as hybrid learning's effect on studio culture and collaboration and how much I can get out of my education is at the top of the list. Similarly I can't experience what the culture is like at these schools since they are all currently hybrid so it makes even picking a school in the first place very challenging. I also would like to re-apply to some of the schools I got rejected from as I feel that for a number of reasons they may be a better fit (cohort size, location, facilities, network, etc.). Lastly, I got some scholarship money at all these places but they are all still very expensive so it is appealing to take time to earn money and strengthen my application to earn more funding.

At the same time I worry that turning these schools down would hurt my chances at getting in again next year but I also don't want to piss anybody off (or get "blacklisted"?) by deferring and possibly going somewhere else instead.

Does anybody have experience with any of this or know how this process would go?

Apr 12, 21 2:06 pm

Usually reapplying the next year doesn't get you "blacklisted". I did this with a top 15 school. I committed to the school last year and withdrew my application 2 months before classes started due to personal reasons. I reapplied and still got in with a full tuition offer.

I think what usually looks bad is committing to a school and then dropping it to go to another the same year. 

But usually reapplying doesn't hurt your application since you might be reapplying under different circumstances. I have a friend who got into USC this year and is reapplying next year with a better portfolio to see if he can get more $$

Apr 12, 21 2:19 pm  · 

Are you sure your schools are going to be hybrid in Fall 2021?  The colleges around me are planning to be back to an all in-person arrangement by then.  Their assumption is that COVID dangers will be mitigated and restrictions lifted in the next 3-4 months before school starts.

Apr 12, 21 2:48 pm  · 

Thanks for the responses! 

By "blacklisted" I mostly meant how bad would it look to defer and then somehow have that school or another that i was applying to find out that I had a spot saved at one place but was applying to others? I know in undergrad this is bad and can get all offers withdrawn. It's good to hear that schools still accept students who have turned them down in the past though.

I know that all the school's summer intensive orientation programs will be fully remote which is a big bummer even though its only about a month it still is my first experience in grad school and interacting with my knew classmates and professors. And even for that small amount of time it is still a significant enough amount of money that I'd like to feel like I was getting the most out of it that I could. 

For the fall I think all the schools I got into are still planning on being hybrid with de-densified studios and I worry that I'll really be missing out on a lot in terms of studio culture and collaboration.

For people who have decided to re-apply either for better scholarship or to try again at other schools, what suggestions do you have to strengthen my application as much as possible in the year in between?

Apr 12, 21 3:21 pm  · 

I don't think there is such a think as blacklisting from admissions committees. It could happen in employment cases (I have known such cases) but definitely not at academic institutions. Myself I deferred my entry to 2 top UK schools twice and still got offers the following round, although my reasons for deferring were because I wanted to stay at work longer.

 Given the Covid circumstances, I think that deferral would be the best option for you and I can tell you from personal experience that blended learning during Covid severely damaged my March's studio culture and  learning experience. Therefore the reasons you mentioned above are all on point (with the exception of blacklisting). In regards to improving your application, I would suggest to reapply as early as possible and work on improving your portfolio in respect to design process. 

Extra tip: the Covid era is a great opportunity to do credits via distance learning to some schools you would never get to do to location wise. You can register as a free mover (non degree student) and take any courses you want at any school (globally) that allows you to do so. In any case, best of luck! 

Apr 12, 21 7:12 pm  · 

Thanks robhaw, this is all reassuring to hear. Just to clarify you think it's reasonable to defer (pay deposit and have a seat held for me) even while I know I'm applying to additional schools in the coming round?

Yeah, the studio experience is something I'm really looking forward to and even if there is some instruction happening in person it sounds like studios will not be fully "alive" and interactive which is something that I really feed off of.

How much do you think the work experience I get in the next year matters? It sounds like what really holds weight is showing continued progress in my portfolio, any advice for how to do that while out of school and not having easy access to studio or fabrication space?

Lastly, I like that idea for distance learning, do you think there are any particular topics or institutions that would be particularly helpful to look at?

Apr 12, 21 9:08 pm  · 

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