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

The Ivy Coach Daily

March 15, 2024

When Do College Waitlist Decisions Come Out?

A bronze statue of John Harvard is featured at Harvard University.
Over the last 30 years, about 39% of students who have first come to Ivy Coach after being placed on Harvard’s waitlist have earned admission.

Was your child placed on an elite university’s waitlist this spring? If so, in addition to wondering about their chances of admission out of limbo, you’re likely wondering when — if ever — they’ll receive the final word of their admissions decision. While the timeframe can vary for students on these waitlists to learn their ultimate fate, we at Ivy Coach can offer you a better sense of when they’re most likely to hear back. So, let’s dive in!

Waitlist Notifications Timelines

In our experience at Ivy Coach, elite universities tend to accept students off their waitlists in two, and sometimes three, general windows, which are as follows:

Pre-National Candidates’ Reply Date Waitlist Activity

Over the years, we’ve had many students earn admission off the waitlists of top universities within days of learning they’ve been placed on a waitlist in the first place.

Wondering why? Admissions offices have got enrollment management down to a science — they’ve Moneyballed it. So when they see that 10-15% fewer students have accepted spots in the incoming class a week after decisions go out compared to the year before, they’ll start getting nervous and preemptively turning to their waitlists.

It’s why it’s critically important to send in a powerful Letter of Continued Interest — not just any letter, but a waitlist letter that wows — within just a couple of days of being waitlisted.

Because the waitlists at our nation’s top colleges are rarely ranked, when the admissions office receives a powerful letter, and their numbers are down on a specific date year-over-year, that student with the powerful letter will so often end up at the top of the pile.

As such, it never ceases to confound us how many students choose to wait to submit their letters. What are they waiting for? Godot?

Post-National Candidates’ Reply Date Waitlist Activity

On May 1st, otherwise known as National Candidates’ Reply Date, college admissions officers learn their yields for their incoming classes. Everything is signed, sealed, and delivered. Thus, if there are still seats in the incoming class — as there so often are — there will be another burst of waitlist activity in early May to fill out the remainder of the incoming first-year class.

Summer Melt Waitlist Activity

While many schools claim that they no longer turn to their waitlists after May or early June, don’t believe them. If a student who has committed to attending a school changes their mind over the summer (it’s called summer melt in college admissions for a reason), you bet that school will fill that student’s seat. Did you think the school would forgo the tuition dollars? Of course not!

So when a school says it will no longer turn to their waitlists after May or early June, know that they don’t even yet know themselves if they’ll be turning to their waitlists over the summer. At Ivy Coach, we once had a student who moved into their Duke University dorm room. Later that day, they learned they had earned admission off the Harvard University waitlist after we helped them submit a compelling Letter of Continued Interest. They promptly moved out.

When Most Students Earn Admission Off Waitlists

Between the three timeframes, in our experience at Ivy Coach, most students earn admission off elite college waitlists in the early days of May — just after the National Candidates’ Reply Date. The second most significant burst of activity comes before the National Candidates’ Reply Date, just after admissions decisions go out. And while we have had many students earn admission off college waitlists in July and August over the years, it’s much rarer than the other timeframes.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Earning Admission Off Waitlists

If you’re interested in optimizing your child’s case for admission off an elite university’s waitlist, doing nothing is not the answer. While most parents know that they must submit a powerful Letter of Continued Interest, these same parents think such letters should be filled with accolades and updates. Yet that’s not the approach Ivy Coach‘s students take. Our students who first come to us after being placed on elite college waitlists take a very different approach — and it’s why we have the track record we do with waitlisted candidates.

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