Waitlisted? No Brags. No Updates. Learn About Ivy Coach's Letter of Continued Interest

The Ivy Coach Daily

December 1, 2023

How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest

Students descend a staircase inside a Harvard University building.
Deferred and waitlisted candidates need to submit a powerful letter to the school that placed their candidacy in limbo.

Was your child deferred after the Early Decision/Early Action round of admissions to the Class of 2028? Or what if your child is waitlisted after the Regular Decision round of admissions? Either way, the student’s call to action is the same: they need to submit a powerful letter to the school that placed them in limbo. Some call it a Letter of Continued Interest. Others call it a Letter of Enthusiasm. No matter what one calls it, that letter must go in pronto.

What Are a Student’s Chances After Being Deferred of Waitlisted?

Historically, about 10% of deferred and waitlisted students earn admission across all highly selective universities. Of course, in certain years, an elite university will admit more deferred and waitlisted applicants than in other years, but the 10% rule is a general rule of thumb. That said, in the spring of 2020, elite universities reached deep into their waitlists, admitting an unprecedented number of students. Why? Because when so many admits deferred their enrollment by taking gap years due to the pandemic, the schools had to fill seats. In short, you never know how many deferred or waitlisted candidates a school will admit in a given year.

Is It Better to Be Deferred After the Early Round or Waitlisted After the Regular Decision Round?

There is no meaningful statistical difference in a student’s chances of admission after being deferred compared to being waitlisted. And it’s not as though all elite universities annually release the number of students they admit after deferrals or even the number of students they accept off the waitlist. Do some schools release the data on occasion? Yes, but the data has holes. Some years, colleges don’t even turn to their waitlists. In short, don’t get lost in the data; make sure your child is putting their best foot forward with the school that delayed rendering their decision.

What is a Letter of Continued Interest?

Most students know they should submit a Letter of Continued Interest after being deferred or waitlisted. They just don’t know how to go about writing it. But, in general, a Letter of Continued Interest is a note that students submit to the schools’ admissions offices which kicked the can on their final admissions decisions. It’s a letter designed to express that they still wish to attend if admitted. Whether deferred or waitlisted, the approach is the same: students should send a letter.

Why Should Students Send a Letter of Continued Interest?

In our experience, students who do nothing after being deferred or waitlisted significantly decrease their odds of earning admission. When admissions offices don’t hear from these students, they’re likely to think that the student has sour grapes after not getting in or is no longer interested in attending. It’s not the kind of message a student should send if they genuinely want to get in. In short, doing nothing is not the answer.

Should Students Send a Letter of Continued Interest to Every School?

Students should submit a Letter of Continued Interest to every school to which they hope to earn admission. If a student applied Early Decision to a school that deferred their candidacy, this school should absolutely receive a Letter of Continued interest. After all, this student earmarked their valuable binding commitment to this institution. Why cut bait now? 

And it’s not just if a student applied Early Decision. If a deferred student applied Early Action to any of the three Ivy League schools with non-binding policies, they should submit a letter. The same goes for any highly selective university for deferred and waitlisted students — unless the student has already earned admission to a college they would prefer to attend over the one that delayed rendering their decision.

But students must keep in mind that if they are going to send in multiple Letters of Continued Interest, they must specifically tailor each to the individual college.

Does a Letter of Continued Interest Really Help?

Submitting a powerful Letter of Continued Interest gives a student the best chance of admission after being deferred or waitlisted. Put it this way: if a student doesn’t put in the effort, they’re all but giving up on getting into that school.

Do the Letters of Continued Interest of Ivy Coach’s Students Really Help?

Over the last 30 years, about 40% of students who have first come to us as clients after being deferred or waitlisted ultimately earned admission to the schools that delayed rendering their decisions. And, yes, this same statistic holds for students we work with after they’ve been deferred or waitlisted from Harvard.

This statistic compares to about 10% of deferred or waitlisted candidates across highly selective universities. So do most students who come to us after being deferred or waitlisted ultimately get in? No, and we want people to know the cold hard truth. All we can do is give these students the best chance of getting in — and if that doesn’t suffice, then Ivy Coach is not the right fit.

What Should Students Include in a Letter of Continued Interest?

A Letter of Continued Interest should be a love letter to the school. It should be chock full of specific after specific of how a student hopes to contribute their singular hook — whatever that singular hook might be — to the institution’s programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and more.

If a student did not frame their narrative compellingly in their initial application, which is all too common, it’s a chance to reframe their narrative. But the letter cannot just be a Personal Statement. It must contain specifics that only apply to the college that placed their application in limbo. It should be a portrait of the student actively engaged on the campus, contributing their singular hook (not well-rounded pursuits).

Of course, the secret sauce of Ivy Coach’s Letters of Continued Interest is indeed a secret family recipe — and it’s rather delectable.

How Should a Letter of Continued Interest Be Formatted?

A Letter of Continued Interest should be a formal letter. We like students to put the finishing touches of the note on themselves (e.g., the addresses, dates, signature, etc.) so it’s in their unique style.

To Whom Should a Letter of Continued Interest Be Addressed?

The letter should — when possible — be addressed to the student’s regional admissions representative. The regional rep is the person who likely read their file. If a student is unsure of the name of their regional rep, they can either look it up on the admissions office’s website or call the main line of the admissions office to ask.

And to those students who wish to address their letters to the dean of admissions, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Students should not go above the head of their regional rep. That is an improbable strategy to inspire the admissions office to want to root for that student. Yikes!

How Long Should a Letter of Continued Interest Be?

A Letter of Continued Interest should be about the length of The Common Application’s Personal Statement (or 650 words). Think of it as a page or a little over a page. It should not be only half a page. And it should not be two pages.

What Should Students Not Include in a Letter of Continued Interest?

Despite what you read online, a Letter of Continued Interest should be free of brags or updates. That’s for the school counselor to relay to the admissions office. Inserting brags and updates in the Letter of Continued Interest will generally render the student less likable. It should also not contain a list of schools to which the applicant has already gained admission, as that will only lead admissions officers to dislike the student strongly. And it should not begin with, “My name is…” A Letter of Continued Interest should not be uncreative!

How Should Students Submit Letters of Continued Interest?

We encourage students to upload their Letters of Continued Interest to their portals. We also encourage students to send their letters via email to their regional representative. Students can do both — that’s perfectly fine.

When Should Students Submit Letters of Continued Interest?

After a deferral or a waitlisting, we encourage students to submit a Letter of Continued Interest within just a few days. Why’s that? Because we don’t want admissions officers thinking these students developed sour grapes. We also believe in the primacy effect of social psychology: admissions officers tend to remember those who wow them first.

Waitlisted candidates should always get that letter in right away. For deferred candidates, there are, however, exceptions. While we would prefer deferred candidates submit that letter a few days after their deferral, if a college didn’t release the decision until December 20th or after, we wouldn’t want the letter to get lost over the holidays. In that case, we prefer the student to submit the letter around January 10th. That said, if the student learned of their decision around December 10th through 16th, they should submit that letter well before the holidays.

High School Counselors Often Incorrectly Recommend Delaying Submitting Letters of Continued Interest

While we’re aware that many high school counselors recommend that deferred students submit a Letter of Continued Interest in mid-March, it’s not the correct advice in our book. Yes, admissions officers return their attention to the deferred pool around two weeks before releasing Regular Decision notifications. But these letters are uploaded to their portals. They will remain in their files for review at that time — and they’ll also be read soon after the deferral when the student’s application is still fresh in the admissions officers’ minds.

How Else Can Students Increase Their Chances After Being Deferred or Waitlisted?

Decades ago, a student famously pitched a tent outside an admissions office, hoping to increase his admission odds after being waitlisted. In the morning, the dean of admissions smelled the bacon the student was cooking on a burner. True story. More recently, a student took out a bus advertisement, imploring the admissions office to let him in — another true story. But don’t even consider it! Such strategies are doubtful to increase one’s odds of admission and will more than likely backfire.

After being deferred or waitlisted, a student should submit a compelling Letter of Continued Interest. We’re all for the student then bringing that letter to their school counselor so their school counselor can make an advocacy call on their behalf, armed with how the student presented themselves in the letter. And we’re sometimes ok with an additional letter of recommendation — provided it’s from a teacher in a core subject or professor who directly supervised the student’s research. But that is all a student can do.

Should Students Regularly Reach out to the College that Waitlisted or Deferred Them?

Beyond submitting the letter, anything else the student does risks drowning out the power of that Letter of Continued Interest. It risks annoying admissions officers. We’re all for the high school annoying the college. But we’re not for the student annoying the college. No tents. No bus ads. Don’t be a gadfly!

Is Writing a Letter of Continued Interest Worth It?

Submitting a Letter of Continued Interest gives a student the best chance of getting in. Does it give them a great chance? No. And if anyone should say they have a great chance, we’d encourage that student to run, run fast, and run for the hills, as no one can give a deferred or waitlisted student a great chance of admission. At Ivy Coach, all we can do is give a student their best chance possible of admission.

Frequently Asked Questions About Letters of Continued Interest

When Are Deferred Applicants Reviewed?

Admissions officers typically return their attention to the deferred pool around two weeks before Regular Decision notifications go out (around mid-March).

Are Deferred Applicants Ranked?

No, highly selective universities do not rank deferred applicants.

Are Waitlisted Applicants Ranked?

Yes, many elite universities rank their waitlists. But, no, it’s impossible to discern where your child falls in the pecking order.

When Do Colleges Turn to Their Waitlists?

We’ve had students earn admission off waitlists within a few days of being waitlisted. We’ve also had students move into their dorm rooms only to learn they got off a college’s waitlist. They promptly then move out. Even if a college says they will finalize their waitlists by a specific date, if they need to fill a seat after that date, they’ll fill that seat!

What Can I Do If My Child’s High School Counselor Won’t Reach Out to a College on My Child’s Behalf?

That’s unfortunate but not uncommon. In the spirit of equity, some school counselors assert that lobbying for students is unfair. We disagree. It’s their job to lobby for students. Other high school counselors will undoubtedly be doing so. The counselors who refuse to make advocacy calls are thus often putting their students at a competitive disadvantage.

How to Proceed with Ivy Coach’s Help After Being Deferred or Waitlisted

If your child was deferred after the Early Action/Early Decision round or waitlisted after the Regular Decision round, reach out to us as soon as possible by completing our free consultation form. We’ll then be in touch in short order to outline our services.

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