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What you can do if you're waitlisted

By Lee Bierer

Being waitlisted feels a bit like you’re in purgatory – you weren’t accepted; BUT, you weren’t rejected. Waitlists have a variety of purposes: many would say they are a “slow cruel rejection.” This is what college advisors refer to as the “courtesy wait-list.” When you can see that a college offered a spot on their waitlist to 7,000+ students last year and only accepted 1%, it makes you wonder if it’s worth the effort to even respond to the waitlist.

Students should respond to the waitlist to inform colleges of their interest either way; however, students also need to make alternative plans and accept one of their offers by May 1st.

Students should not make their decisions about the waitlist based on stats from prior years. The waitlist is designed to give the college maximum flexibility in enrolling what it considers “a complete class.” Being accepted from a waitlist is entirely based on the admissions yield, i.e., what percentage of students choose to accept their offer. So, if a college’s yield increases from 40% last year to 55% this year, they will not be taking anyone from the waitlist; instead, they will be hunting for beds for freshmen.

If you decide you are very interested in attending any of the colleges where you’ve been waitlisted, be sure to follow their instructions closely. Many schools will accept a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) and it can be a valuable tool for students who have been waitlisted.

If you choose to write a LOCI, here are some important items to include:

  1. Express Gratitude: Start by thanking the admissions committee for considering your application and for placing you on the waitlist.

  2. Reiterate Interest: Clearly state that you remain very interested in attending the college. Explain why it is your top choice and how you can see yourself fitting into the campus community.

  3. Update Achievements: Share any new academic, extracurricular, or personal achievements since you submitted your application. This could include new awards, leadership positions, improved grades, or significant accomplishments.

  4. Reaffirm Fit: Highlight specific programs, courses, or aspects of the college that align with your academic and career goals. Show that you have done your research and are a good fit for the institution.

  5. Additional Information: If there are any circumstances that have impacted your application that you haven’t previously discussed, such as personal challenges or hardships, you may briefly mention them.

  6. Promise to Enroll: If admitted, state clearly that you will enroll at the college. This demonstrates your commitment and can help the admissions committee gauge your level of interest. Do NOT do this at more than one college.

  7. Follow-Up Intent: Express your willingness to provide any additional information or answer any questions the admissions committee may have. Include your contact information for easy reach.

  8. Polite and Professional Tone: Maintain a respectful and professional tone throughout the letter. Avoid sounding entitled or demanding or even desperate. Don’t tell them that you wore a mini cheerleader’s outfit for Halloween for three years, etc.

  9. Brief and to the Point: Keep the letter concise and focused. Admissions officers are busy, so a clear, well-organized letter will be more effective.

  10. Submit at the Right Time: Send your LOCI at a strategic time, such as after you have received your waitlist notification but before the college’s stated deadline for additional materials.

Remember, a LOCI is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s important to also continue focusing on your academics and activities, as well as exploring other college options in case you are not admitted off the waitlist.


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