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The Secret to Getting off the Waitlist

Getting stuck on your dream college's waitlist sucks – it is such a frustrating experience. I’m sure you have a ton of questions you'd want to be answered. 

You are curious to know how many students are on the waitlist and whether they are ahead of you or not. Maybe, you are in a dilemma of whether you should move on or wait until the college gives their verdict. 

Long story cut short - you want to know how to get off the waitlist.

So, let's dive in.

First, What the Heck Does Waitlisted Mean?

If you apply for a place in one of the colleges through regular decision, there are usually three responses you will get - either a yes, no, or a spot on the waitlist.

Now, waitlisted means that your application was good, but just not good enough. There are many reasons why you would be put on a waitlist but that is just not important right now. 

Waitlisted students should hear from the colleges after 1st May when the high school seniors have deposited and confirmed that they will attend the college.

What are Your Chances When You're Waitlisted?

It's easy to assume that you will get a spot in the college the moment an admitted student rejects a college's offer, but that is not the case. In most cases, a ton of students will have to reject the college's offer before they can decide to check their waitlist. So why does that happen?

Every college has a target number of students they would want to admit. They end up sending more admission offers than they know they should be expecting because they don't want to fall too short of their target. This is to make sure that they don't end up registering a lower number.

The number of students a college is estimating would say yes to their offer is referred to as "yield." If a college happens to have overestimated the yield, it means they will be forced to go back to their waitlist and see if they could give them more admission offers.

So does that mean that it's near impossible to get off the waitlist? That is not true - you can get off the waitlist. Now, the number of waitlisted students who finally get admission varies from time to time. For example, Havard admitted no waitlisted students for the class of 2021, but they managed to admit up to 63 for the class of 2022.

Sometimes, the waitlist admission rates can be low, and that's normal. According to U.S News, a fifth of waitlisted students across all colleges finally gets admission offers. Additionally, it is said that the most reputable colleges have a range of between 0 and 6 percent.

What is important that you do not just let things be and accept your fate. You can if you want, but there are proven things you can to do to get off the waitlist.

So, How Colleges Decide to Admit From the Waitlist

This is a great area and different colleges work differently. 

In some colleges, the admission committee of a college will rank their waitlist students and quickly send out offers to the highly-rated applicants as soon as a spot comes up.

Sadly, most colleges do not use this criterion. Instead, most colleges look into the entire pool of the waitlist and filter out students in line with academic qualifications lost from those students who have rejected their offers. For example, if many students who were to take art fail to accept the college's admission, the university will have to reconsider the students who can fill it up.

Colleges also look into gender and diversity backgrounds when making decisions on waitlisted applicants. It is important to note that colleges need to fill up the vacant spots, and therefore place an extra emphasis on demonstrated interest (more on it later). 

Visiting Waitlist Numbers of Top Schools

You need to get it right that colleges do not place applicants on the waitlist to give false hopes. A waitlist exists as a measure to provide the school with a safety net where they can look into if their perceived yield rate falls below par. The number of students who will make admission offers varies from time to time, as in Havard's case.

  • Rhodes College admitted 51 applicants out of 214 applicants - that's 24 percent. 
  • University of California Berkeley admitted a total of 2,045 students out of 3,725 students on the waitlist in 2017-18. 
  • University of Michigan has accepted 11.4 percent of their waitlist students
  • Lafayette College has admitted 27 percent
  • Oberlin College 16.4 percent.
  • Amherst accepted over 10 percent of the waitlisted students
  • Vassar College admitted 74 applicants out of 472 - 15.7 percent. Overall, the Vassar College has an acceptance rate of 25 percent. 

Now, let’s look at the colleges with ugly waitlist acceptance numbers

  • At Cornell University, there are 4,546 students on waitlists with a 3.6 percent acceptance rate.
  • The acceptance rate at Dartmouth College is zero percent, with 1,292 students on waitlists.
  • At Georgetown University, only 16 students out of 1,754 were offered admission.
  • The acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania is 0.4 percent, 9 of whom got an admission out of the 2,561 waitlisted students.      

So, now we are done with all this data, let’s get on to the real strategies that can help you get off the dreaded waitlist:

Letter of Continued Interest

What is this letter of continued interest, also known as LOCI? It is an email you send to an admission office, typically after you’ve been deferred or placed on their waitlist. It lets the college know you’re still interested in attending and why. 

It’s a way to show the colleges that deferred you or put you on the waitlist that you still got potential to be a part of their campus but aren’t quite sure yet if you’re worthy. 

Goals of the waitlist letter

There are two specific goals a waitlist letter must achieve, which is:

  1. You should be able to show that you are still interested in joining the college.
  2. Iron the weaknesses that were in the application.

It is also essential that you create your story around a theme to ensure that it is relatable and exciting. For example, you could point out that you took part in the community service project after a disaster that occurred in your town.

It is all about being creative with your achievements and how you managed to attain them. Every story can be memorable and exciting as long as it is built around a theme.

Important Points When Writing the Letter

1. Know the deeper reasons for why a college deferred you or put you on the waiting list in the first place

Before you get all hyped up to write down your letter, it's essential to know the reasons for why you were deferred or put in the waiting list first. After all, the colleges could've just rejected you right off the bat, but they still see some potential in you. But they can't precisely accept you yet because of various reasons. It might be that there are more deserving students or the slots got filled up and many others.

But there are deeper reasons to go by, and those are the ones you can use in your favour. As College Vine explains here, the colleges want to know a few things about you which are do you have the capability to succeed in campus and will you make attendance once you're offered a spot? Ask yourself these questions and look deep within you for what your answers will be.

2. Remember the general structure of the letter of continued interest

When you’ve got the reasons, use the following structure to write your letter:

General Structure

You can add a bit more, but in general, you can stick with this simple structure.

3. Mention new accomplishments not included in the original application

It would be best if you convinced the school that they did the right thing by reconsidering your application. As such, explain how you've improved on your weaknesses since the initial application. Perhaps you might also say how you intend to contribute to the school both in academics and extracurricular activities.  

Meanwhile, mention the specific subjects that troubled you before and include the test scores in the letter. Also, if you're relatively active in extracurricular activities and your skills have incredibly improved, mention that in your letter as well.

And like I mentioned before, you need to have a unique personality. Briefly tell your personal story or learning experience and how you intend to accomplish them in the future. This will make not only your application a standout but also a memorable one. 

It is worth noting that your accomplishments should include a maximum of two themes so that you can extensively discuss them. Also, ensure that you do not repeat yourself by emphasizing something you had previously updated in your initial application because the admission committee is already aware of all that.

4. Show your interest in the college

You should give the aspects that make the college appeal to them. You can point out the school's overall mission and vision, or maybe explain that they have gotten a feel of how good the university is through alumni and give references to specific extracurricular activities that the college offers.  

If you had a conversation with a current student a month before receiving the waitlist notice, let them feel free to mention it in your waitlist letter. Maybe through the interview, you got attracted to how good the housing system is at the college, which makes them feel that that college is the best.

Finally, it would be best if you elaborate on why you are happy with some of the special mentions. In summary, you want to be very honest with yourself about joining college. Make it seem like this is your dream college and you cannot afford to lose it. But let it don't look as if you are desperate to join the institution.

5. Don’t add these things to your letter of continued interest

On the flip side, there are things you don't want to add to your letter of continued interest. Keep these in mind as you're drafting:

  • Negativity

It’s always a great idea to not be negative when writing your letter of continued interest. No matter how pissed off or saddened you are, showing even one instance of this in your letter can bring down the chances to a zero. Doing this will have the college think you're not genuinely worthy at all and may even reject you right off the bat. So as much as possible, avoid negativity.

  • Inappropriate or improper remarks

When writing the letter, make sure to watch your language. Even if the slang might be accepted, it's still best to avoid it altogether. Doing so will hurt your chances and may even land you a rejection, so just avoid it.

  • Desperation

As you’re drafting the letter, avoid the tone of being desperate. Sure, you’re on the “maybe” status but you have to remember that there are other applicants like you who may have been put in the same area so being desperate to be accepted 100% will just make you look like everyone else.

  • Additional letters of recommendation or essays

While updating the details that are already in your application can be okay, you’d better make sure not to add additional letters of recommendation or essays with your letter of continued interest. The college will just think you got those elements as a way to show you're still worthy even when the reasons a far more profound than that.  

  • The “To Whom It May Concern” opening

You've seen it, and you've likely used it yourself: the "To Whom It May Concern" opening. For a lot of legal letters, it's okay, but for the letter of continued interest though, it's going to make it look generic. It may even look like you're pleading subtly, and it will give the tone of desperation altogether. So when making your letter of continued interest, NEVER use this opening. Avoid it at all costs.

6. Heed advice from the Yale Admissions Blog

It might seem so right to give yourself credit and re-do parts of your application while you're on the "maybe" status with your preferred colleges. Maybe it'll do your good. But it's actually done you more harm than good. That's why this piece of advice from the Yale Admissions Blog will tell you that they want to help those who are deferred too. As they said: “We do not recommend that you send the admissions office piles of updates after a deferral. You should not try to re-do any parts of your application. You should not inundate your admissions officer with weekly emails and cards” In short: don’t try to pamper your application like it’s some show-off. You already gave the admissions team a chance to see who you are, so there’s no need to change what you sent. What you can do is give them a little more convincing update through subtler means.

7. Remember these tips and tricks when making your letter of continued interest

You're almost ready, but you may still have some question marks on how else you can make it better. Not to worry; we got some tips and tricks you can use. Here they are:

writing letter of continued interest with style

8. Have a look at some good examples

It can seem a little daunting when you’re finally ready to get started and make the letter, so here are some templates you can check out courtesy of ThoughtCo. As you'll see in the links, the templates display all the significant elements of a persuasive letter of continued interest. When you've practised and drafted one that resembles the elements present in these letters, you got yourself a clear winner.

9. Have an expert take a look before you send

Of course, even when you've got a high draft, you need to have an expert look at it before you make the send. Doing this will give you a second opinion, see what you may have missed, and find out how you come across to the admissions committee or officer who will view your letter. You can also ask the experts if the colleges you’re going to send the letter will accept it.

10. Press the send button (or send via snail mail)

Once you’ve got all the steps in your mind, your final step will be to write everything down and press the send button. You can also send it physically if that's something a college will go for, but it's best when done in electronic form.

Wrap Up

Being told that you've been deferred or put on the waitlist can be disturbing at first. But with the letter of continued interest, you can show the admissions team you got something in you most applicants don't. You may even be able to sway the fortune in your favour. 

However, once you have submitted a waitlist letter, you should focus on how you’ll make your college experience a better one, regardless of where you land up.

Also, you should find out what colleges accepted your application and submit your deposit before the deadline. The waitlist decisions always come after the May deadline, so that means that you will lose his deposit if you are accepted by the college that waitlisted you.

Lastly, it is essential to note that missing out on your dream college isn't the end of the road. You still have a bright future whether or not you join another college.

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