The Ivy Coach Daily

February 6, 2024

A Must Read for Waitlisted Students: College Waitlist Strategies

Waitlisted Students, College Waitlists, Waitlisted to College
Were you waitlisted to the college of your dreams? If so, if you play your cards right, you’ve still got a shot.

Previously Published on April 20, 2018:

If you didn’t receive a flat-out rejection or an offer of admission in the Regular Decision round, you’re in waitlist limbo. Oh, the dreaded waitlist! Maybe you’ve been refreshing your inbox every day for weeks even though you knew the precise date and time the college of your dreams would release its admissions decisions. Maybe you’ve been boiling water for the sole purpose of watching it boil, to burn that time. And after all this time, the college of your dreams chose not to render a final decision on your candidacy. It’s frustrating, we know. But it’s your reality. So, what exactly are you going to do about it?

The Wrong Approach to the Waitlist

1. The Do-Nothing Strategy

When most students are placed in waitlist limbo, they do nothing. This approach was the case 20 years ago, and it remains the case today. Yet doing nothing is never the right path forward. After all, doing nothing expresses to a college that you’re not especially interested in attending. Doing nothing doesn’t make that college feel special one bit. The do-nothingers are unlikely to distinguish themselves on college waitlists to earn admission.

2. The Throw-Things-At-The-Wall Strategy

The other batch of waitlisted students know better than to do nothing. These students do something. Yet they tend, overwhelmingly, to do the wrong things. Maybe they call the admissions office and nag them. Maybe they post a YouTube video on why they so wish to attend. Maybe they know to submit a letter to express their continued interest in attending — that’s great. But submitting a letter and submitting an outstandingpowerful letter that can make all the difference are two different things.

What most students and their parents think should be in a letter is quite the opposite of what should in fact be in a letter. A Letter of Continued Interest should not be used as real estate to brag. It should not be used to tout your achievements since you first applied at the beginning of January. And what has a student genuinely achieved in the less than three months since first applying? Bueller. Bueller…

The Right Approach to the Waitlist

So now that you know the wrong way to approach the waitlist, what exactly is the right way? That’s easy. Ivy Coach’s two-step process for waitlisted candidates, which has so often worked for students who first come to us after being waitlisted for nearly two generations, is as follows:

1. PostMortem Application Review

When so many students and parents come to us after learning of a waitlist decision, they read our approach and then retort, “We don’t need a PostMortem. We need help with a Letter of Continued Interest.” But they’re wrong.

While there’s nothing a student can change about their application after being waitlisted, we need to understand how a student positioned their case for admission. After all, their Letter of Continued Interest can’t be out of left field. A student who applied with astrophysics all over their application can’t suddenly write a Letter of Continued Interest about the enduring importance of the Classics. Additionally, during this session, we need students to appreciate what they did right and wrong so they understand why we position the Letter of Continued Interest as we do.

2. Letter of Continued Interest Assistance

After the PostMortem, we reconvene for a brainstorming session for the Letter of Continued Interest. During this session, we read Letters of Continued Interest that have worked for our students in the past to the school at which our current student is waitlisted. One comment we often hear after reading these letters aloud goes, “That is not at all what I thought should be a Letter of Continued Interest. But now I get it.”

We’ll then offer paragraph-by-paragraph direction for how the student should approach their unique Letter of Continued Interest. They’ll then write that letter based on the paragraph-by-paragraph direction that day, and we’ll make significant revisions to it the following day so that it’s as powerful as possible and can be submitted soon thereafter.

Getting Started with Ivy Coach’s Waitlist Assistance

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for earning admission off an elite college’s waitlist, fill out Ivy Coach’s complimentary consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our go-forward waitlist service.

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