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No Tears About the Waitlist

A colleague's words inspired to me write this. Upset about being waitlisted by your top choice college? That college may not be convinced that you’ll accept their offer. Here’s why:

“Yield,” the percentage of students who accept a college’s offer of admission, has always mattered to colleges. The pandemic--and test optional admissions--dramatically increased the number of applications colleges received, making yield less predictable than ever. Yield carries bragging rights—Harvard’s yield is bigger than Haverford’s (or just about anyone’s)—and yield factors into college rankings. Colleges fear falling in the rankings. (Like Malcolm Gladwell, I distrust the rankings…but here we are.)

Like most of the college process, the waitlist offers no guarantees, and admits to competitive colleges are in the low percentages. However, I have data on most colleges’ waitlists from last year, and “waitlist” is not “deny.” So send your deposit to another great college by May 1st, and if you would definitely enroll at that waitlisted college, let them know. You are still in the game!

I generally advise you to follow the college’s advice. Not this time. The waitlist letter reads, “If you stay on the waitlist, don’t contact us. We’ll contact you.” But just as you work to get that great internship or summer job, be proactive.

Take a breath. Then, toward the end of April/early May, contact your college admissions rep with a letter of continued interest (LOCI) of no more than 250 words (there’s one in your Demonstrated Interest file if you’re working with me). Make sure to let that college know that you really mean it by sharing new accomplishments, what you will bring to particular courses, and how those courses and professors will help you reach your long-term goals. (If possible, consider visiting the admissions rep by Zoom or in person.)

Remember the “Why Us? essay and how specific I said it must be? Open that college website and revisit that strategy! If the reasons you state for wanting to attend a college could be applied to any college, no school will be certain that you will accept their offer. The only way to raise the odds of getting off that waitlist is to convince them you will attend.

P.S. DO NOT REMAIN ON A WAITLIST FOR A SCHOOL YOU WILL NOT ATTEND! Remove your name and help someone else get accepted!


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