Several things can happen when you apply for admission Early Action or Early Decision. Schools can admit you, they can deny you, or they can defer your decision to their regular decision process. While this can be frustrating, it is not a no. Basically, they are putting you on hold to see what the rest of the pool looks like. Highly selective colleges are building a class–not just admitting one. They are looking to admit a wide range of students for a well-rounded student body. They are waiting to see if they need your profile to fill out that well-roundness.
Don’t panic. Go through the deferral letter (or email or info posted in the portal) and make sure you understand your next steps. If they require semester or mid-term grades, have them sent by your counselor or uploaded into the portal per their instructions. If they want a letter of continued interest there isn’t a rush to send right away. Wait until January to draft and send as they recommend (via email or uploaded to the portal). Include any new information that might be helpful including awards won, new activities, leadership roles, or a new part-time job. Don’t rehash what is already in your application. If they allow additional letters of recommendation, ask a teacher to submit one. It can be helpful to have it come from a different subject than already submitted. This shows more well-rounded academic skills.
If you haven’t visited or done a virtual visit, do one–it shows demonstrated interest. If your high school counselor is willing to make a call on your behalf, ask. It can be helpful to have a school counselor call, tell your first choice school that they are your top choice, and ask what might strengthen your application (don’t do this if it isn’t true because it undermines your counselor’s ability to advocate for students when you don’t enroll despite them saying it is your top choice).
If you applied with test scores, taking the SAT or ACT again and submitting newer, higher scores may help. It doesn’t always though.
Then it becomes a waiting game. It may be a few months before you hear anything. If you have been admitted to other schools, explore them. Get excited about them. They want you–and it is nice to be wanted. Continue to stay in touch with the admission counselor at the deferred school if you have updates or want to demonstrate continued interest. Just remember that one decision does not define you. There is a perfect college for everyone, and it is not always the one you had your heart set on at first.