Cope with the Waitlist: Write Your Letter of Continued Interest
Before I tell you all about the waitlist and your letters of continued interest, I just want to say that I hope you are staying healthy, being safe, and prioritizing your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing right now. It feels like the whole world has been upended by the COVID-19 outbreak, and that’s especially true for everyone who is on their college admissions journey. I am so sorry you are having to deal with this right now. It’s enormously disappointing and scary. No one knows exactly what the future holds, but I want to take this opportunity to remind you that your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you is paramount. College is a big deal, of course, but it’s by no means the most important thing right now.
That being said, it’s not like you can just stop your college admissions journey. You should have heard from most of your colleges by now. As I wrote about last fall, this can be a tumultuous time (as if you don’t have enough on your plate). This can be a period full of elation, disappointment, or both. Whatever news you may receive, you must remember that you’ve worked very hard and you’re much more than your college acceptances.
If you happen to hear that you’ve been waitlisted, you may not know how to proceed. You weren’t accepted, but you weren’t rejected–you’re in a limbo of sorts. Your application caught the college’s eye, but not enough that they offered you a spot right away. You don’t know why or how. There’s nothing you can do but wait to see if they end up taking you, right?
Instead of thinking of the waitlist as a passive holding pattern, you need to think of the waitlist as an opportunity to strengthen your application. If you think about it long and hard and decide you want to remain committed to your school’s waitlist, there are steps available to take advantage of and to try to convince the college to accept you. And that’s by writing a letter of continued interest.
But Before We Dive In
Getting off the waitlist at any college is difficult — and rare. As much as possible, you need to make peace with the fact that you probably will need to attend another college. Don’t plan on the waitlist working out.
So, before you write your letter of continued interest, please commit to another school. Fall in love (or “strong like”) with at least one of your acceptances. Learn as much about them as you can through their virtual visits and their websitesSend in your money and commit emotionally and mentally.
If you don’t have any acceptances yet, you still have choices. If you don’t have a school you’re ready to commit to, there are still schools accepting applications. This website has a continually updating list with some awesome colleges that are still accepting apps. (Or you could also decide to do a gap year or start at community college — all great choices.)
The Waitlist Letter of Continued Interest
If you’re still ready to try a letter of continued interest, be sure to carefully read your waitlist letter to check if the college is open to such a letter in the first place. If they are, and you decide you still want to take a spot on the waitlist, this letter of continued interest is your chance. So write the love letter of your life.
Here are some important DOs and DON’Ts:
- Be nice. Be Positive. Thank them for the continued opportunity to be considered. Don’t complain or whine about being waitlisted. Don’t ask them why you weren’t admitted.
- Be yourself. Just like in your personal essay, use your normal word choices and voice.
- Keep it at around 500 words, definitely no more than 600.
- If you want to send a handwritten letter, that’s fine, but make sure you send the same letter in an email and copy that to the admissions office, your regional admissions officer if there is one, and the director of admissions.
- Consider sending in one new or additional letter of recommendation.
- Include any updates to your application. You can bullet point these to make them easier to identify. Start this paragraph with something like “since my application or my last update….” Some examples of worthwhile updates are if you have:
- Improved any test scores or grades,
- Won any awards or competitions since your application or last update
- Reached a personal goal of walking 3200 miles, benching 200 pounds, writing one poem a day for six months, winning a game in Fortnite, beating the bracket in March Madness, or building a castle out of toothpicks.
- If you will definitely attend if you are admitted, tell them so.
- If you can visit again, do. Either describe your visit or tell them about your plans to visit. If you’ve already visited, describe something specific from the visit. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, explain why and how bummed it makes you.
- This is it. There is no holding back now. This is your time to let it all out. Show them why they need you. Tell them why you are so enamored with them and give them reasons to be enamored by you. Bare your soul.
- Write your letter, send it, and be like Elsa–let it go. LIfe’s too short to wait around on college acceptances. Don’t spam the admissions office.
- Don’t send a letter if your deferral letter says not to do so.
- Don’t express anger or frustration. It’s ok to share disappointment briefly, but don’t be whiny or pouty.
- Don’t make any assumptions about your acceptance.
- Don’t make your letter too long.
- Don’t send regular updates. One or two updates is enough.
Once you’ve submitted your letter of continued interest, make peace with the fact that you’ve done all you can. Then, keep your phone charged and your voicemail available. Often, colleges will call you about a waitlist offer before they email you. Also, be sure you’re checking your junk and spam mail pretty regularly, but not obsessively. That’s not healthy.
Again, whatever happens, know that you’re not only a resilient, dedicated person, but you are all those things without going to a particular college. If you focus on the journey of college admissions and not the destination, you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. And the waitlist cannot take that from you.
If you want to learn more about the elements of the College Admissions Checklist, or if you need more college admissions advice, head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of my book, Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit.
You can also find me on r/ApplyingToCollege, drop into the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram.
Good luck and stay awesome!