April 2011 Newsletter
Today, March 30th, the eight colleges of the Ivy League are sending out their admissions decisions. Other highly selective colleges have sent out their decision letters during the last two weeks of March and some will be sending their decisions out the first week of April. Hopefully, you heard or will be hearing great news and an exciting opportunity awaits you! But what if you clicked on your admissions decision and it read something like this: “Congratulations! I write to inform you that the Admissions Committee has found that you were one of our top candidates for admissions. However, due to a highly selective applicant pool this year, we have decided to postpone a final decision on your application, and your name has been placed on a waiting list of students to be considered for admission should vacancies occur later this spring.” You worked so hard in school, you crafted the most powerful essays and application, and now the college couldn’t even render a final decision? The frustration you must be feeling!
Let’s look at this from a college’s perspective. A waitlist system is devised as a cushion so that the college ends up with what they estimate as a targeted freshman class. If too many students accept the college’s offer of admission, then the college has space issues. There might not be enough dorm rooms and class sizes might be compromised.
For the waitlisted student it is important to know that sometimes schools never go to their waitlist because they have received deposits from that targeted number. While most colleges that have waitlists often don’t rank their students, taking students off these waitlists is by no means a random process. In selecting the next class, highly selective colleges look to form well-rounded classes of talented students. So after May 1st (the official date when students must accept an offer of admission) when the college receives deposits of students who have accepted their offer of admission, they have a better idea of what their incoming class looks like. If a college ends up going to their waitlist, the students who are later admitted are ones who will then fill the upcoming freshman class’ void. If, for instance, the class has more females than males, males on the waitlist are going to have an edge. If the class has too few Chinese or Indian students, these students are going to be at an advantage. If no one from the state of Alabama or South Dakota has accepted the offer, students on the waitlist from Alabama or South Dakota might just get in. If the water polo coach needs more water polo players, or there’s a lack of students interested in majoring in environmental studies, then these waitlisted applicants could balance out the class. If you’re a student who does not need any financial aid, this too can be a tipping point since students who are accepted off the waitlist are sometimes not given any aid since the college’s funds have already been allocated.
But for now let’s focus on what the waitlisted applicant should do. When applicants receive waitlist letters, the vast majority of students do absolutely nothing. They simply wait to hear back from the college to see if they get off the waitlist. This approach is without a doubt the wrong one to take!
Students need to be proactive if they hope to increase their chances of getting off the waitlist. The first thing a waitlisted applicant should do is to fill out the response form and mail it back immediately to indicate to the admissions office that they still want to attend the school to which they were waitlisted. International applicants may want to send their responses by email or fax. In any case, it is essential that this form be returned to the college promptly if the waitlisted student wishes to be taken seriously as this needs to be an instinctual reaction. If you want to write a little note on the form, a one-liner such as “Williams College is the only school that I wish to attend” or “I yearn to be a Cameron Crazy!” can be a good idea, too, and don’t be afraid to be creative.
Once you’ve sent in the form, call the admissions office of the college to which you were waitlisted. Find out if they intend to go to the waitlist this year. But don’t take the answer too literally because often times, admissions offices don’t know the answer to this question because they don’t yet know their yield of admitted students (and at the same time they don’t want to lose their waitlisted students if their yield is lower than projected). If you get a response that it is highly unlikely that the college will be going to their waitlist, then that’s good for you to know. You can still be proactive, but it’s important to be realistic. The college that you were already accepted to may very well one day be your alma mater, so get excited about that college while you’re busy being proactive trying to get off the waitlist for the college that has kept you in limbo. And of course don’t forget to send in your deposit to that college by May 1st.
So how can you be proactive? Right after you’ve mailed back the response form, write a letter of enthusiasm to your regional admissions counselor. In this letter, state what you can add to the college community, what you love about the college, and how you’d be a perfect fit for the university. It’s important to be very specific in this letter as a generic letter will not at all help your case. If you’ve written a Why College Essay to this college, make sure that you don’t repeat what you’ve already said. For tips on writing this letter you might want to read our Newsletter – The -Why-I-Want-to-Go-to-Whichever-College-that-I’m-Applying Essay, since the theme is basically the same. But for this letter, stress your continued enthusiasm for the university and let the college know that if accepted, you will certainly attend. If, since your application, you have received a prestigious honor that you never informed the college of, be sure to ask your guidance counselor to send in this new information, or send it in yourself. If you have made contact with a specific person at the college (i.e., a coach, professor, research mentor), reach out to that person and let them know of your continued, unabated interest in their school. If you think you had a good alumni interview, and you have established a rapport with your interviewer, you might also want to enlist this person’s help. Often times, students are too concerned that contacting admissions counselors, alumni interviewers and coaches or professors can be construed as annoying. However, if you do it the right way, it can instead work to your benefit.
While the waitlist is limbo, don’t wait in limbo. Get busy. Express your interest and, maybe, just maybe, you’ll find your waitlisted status transformed into an acceptance.
There are other things that a waitlisted applicant can and should be doing to get admitted off the waitlist. For help in writing a powerful ‘Letter of Enthusiasm,’ and for more information in regard to other ways to turn a waitlist status into a letter of acceptance, contact The Ivy Coach or complete our Free Consultation form.
How to Get Off the Waitlist
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