Waitlisted Students Are Sitting and Waiting

Many students are waiting to write to the schools that have thus far waitlisted them. Instead, they’re waiting to hear from the Ivies on April 6th. It’s a mistake.

We’ve discerned a new trend in elite college admissions this year. We call it the sit and wait-ers. So who exactly are the sit and wait-ers? They’re students who were notified at some point over the last couple of weeks that they were placed on the waitlist of a highly selective university. And what have they done since being placed on the waitlist other than confirm they wish to reserve a spot on the list by checking a box? Nothing. That’s right. Even though many of these students know that they should be sending in a powerful Letter of Enthusiasm to the school(s) that placed them in limbo if they hope to give themselves the best possible shot of admission, these students are opting to wait to reach out to these institutions until after April 6th. And why after April 6th? Because they first want to learn if they’ve earned admission to an Ivy League school or multiple Ivy League schools — and the Ivies have pushed back their typical notification date this year. It makes sense why these students would wait, right?

Admissions Officers Weren’t Born Yesterday and Know You’re Waiting for the Better Offer

No, it most certainly does not make sense — not if these students hope to optimize their case for admission to the school or schools that have placed them in waitlist limbo. You see, admissions officers at the likes of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan, Emory University and Georgetown University, the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University, Williams College and the University of Notre Dame weren’t born yesterday. When they notify you that you’ve been offered a chance to remain on their waitlist and you don’t send them a love letter until after April 6th, they know darn well why you took so long to write. They know you were waiting for the better option. They know they were second fiddle. And when the game to earn admission off waitlists is to prove to a school that you love them above all other schools, well, by waiting so long to send in a Letter of Enthusiasm, you’ve — likely unknowingly — signaled to them quite loudly that you don’t love them as much as you may profess to love them on April 7th or 8th. Yes, your actions can speak even louder than your words.

The Primacy Effect of Social Psychology Is At Play for Waitlisted Applicants

You see, the tenets of social psychology apply to highly selective college admissions. And why? Because admissions officers are people, too. So even they may not be conscious of their bias towards students who send in Letters of Enthusiasm shortly after accepting their spots on waitlists. Even they may not realize the influence of the Primacy Effect on their decision-making. But the Primacy Effect, our cognitive bias to better like and remember the initial pieces of information we encounter, is no less real. The stuff that comes after, well, it’s more likely to be forgotten. Of course, the Recency Effect, our cognitive bias to like and remember the last pieces of information we encounter, is also real. But in highly selective college admissions, do you really want to take a chance of submitting a Letter of Enthusiasm after they’ve already decided they won’t be admitting you off the waitlist? Because you just don’t know when they’ll be turning to your case as they comb the waitlist looking to fill seats.

How to Optimize Your Case for Admission Off Waitlists

But it’s not just about sending in a letter before burning too many more days. It’s about submitting a great letter. In our experience, most students approach the Letter of Enthusiasm in a way that ultimately doesn’t serve their cases for admission. Maybe they boast of their achievements since they first applied or provide an overall update on what they’ve been doing. Maybe they write about their latest grades or let colleges know they are now National Merit Finalists. Would it surprise our readers that writing about such things flies in the face of the approach Ivy Coach’s students take after being waitlisted? Would it surprise our readers to know that including such updates is an unlikely strategy to inspire admissions officers to root for them? And while we do love our blog readers, the secret sauce of Ivy Coach’s Letters of Enthusiasm is a delicious family recipe that we’ve been perfecting for nearly 29 years, one reserved exclusively for our clients. So if you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s help crafting a compelling Letter of Enthusiasm, fill out our free consultation form, indicate that you’ve been waitlisted in the comments section, and we’ll be in touch to set up a free consultation in which you can learn about our service. We’ll leave you with the one line we so often hear from students and parents after they hear the unique Letters of Enthusiasm that have worked for Ivy Coach’s students in the past: “That is not at all what I thought should be in a Letter of Enthusiasm. But now I totally get it.”

 
 

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2 Comments

  • Trex Proffitt says:

    I agree with you here, Ivy Coach. And since Covid, I certainly believe the prospects of getting off a waitlist are better- maybe far better- than pre-Covid times. BUT, I wonder if these students feel jaded by the recent waitlist history of the likes of UChicago (purportedly thousands on the waitlist with just a handful getting off) and the other elites with the grim prospects of gaining admission.

    This is a real conundrum. I am sure your LOCIs work well, but most cannot afford your service and probably feel they are playing the lottery, hence the apathy. Not saying this is correct, but when they watch YOUTUBE videos where they see basically nobody getting off and hear friends and relatives stating it is a soft rejection, it’s hard to change that image. Colleges should STOP putting WAY damn too many people on waitlists. it is giving too many false hope and discourages people who do from pursuing a school after getting a yellow light. Some schools use waitlists fairly, most do not and that is the sad case of college admissions circa 2021. 1981? Different story!

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Hi Trex,

      We agree that our nation’s elite colleges place too many students on waitlists and these waitlists should indeed be shorter. We disagree that most students who are placed on waitlists don’t have a real shot. It’s not false hope. These students were placed on waitlists for a reason. If they approach the waitlists right, in many cases, they’ve got a real shot of getting in. We’ve seen it happen year after year — no better evidenced than last year.

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