The Ivy Coach Daily

December 12, 2023

The Power of a Great Letter of Continued Interest

Letter of Enthusiasm, Power of Letter of Enthusiasm, Great Letter of Enthusiasm
At Ivy Coach, we work with deferred students — students who never previously worked with us — to optimize their case for Regular Decision admission.

Previously Published on December 31, 2017:

Suppose you were deferred in the Early Decision/Early Action round from the college of your dreams or waitlisted in the Regular Decision round by a college you hope to attend. Whether deferred or waitlisted, you need to submit a powerful Letter of Continued Interest in both instances. It’s a way of showing rather than telling that this school remains the school you most wish to attend, and it’s a way of swaying admissions officers at these institutions to root for you. Allow us to explain!

Chances of Admission After Being Deferred

As a general rule of thumb, about 10% of students who are deferred in the Early Action/Early Decision round to elite universities get in during the Regular Decision round. This figure can be higher or lower depending on the school and the year.

For example, Harvard University states on its website, “Past students whose applications were deferred have been admitted at various rates, often approximating the rate for Regular Decision candidates.” Over the last six years, Harvard Regular Decision admission rates stood at 2.34% (Class of 2027), 2.34% (Class of 2026), 2.6% (Class of 2025), 3.2% (Class of 2024), 2.8% (Class of 2023), and 2.8% (Class of 2022).

Meanwhile, Dartmouth College states on its website, “5 to 10 percent of candidates deferred in Early Decision are typically admitted.”

Georgetown University states on its website, “Typically, about 15 percent of the candidates deferred from Early Action are successful during the spring review.”

Yet, irrespective of the specific language on a school’s admissions website (some schools are more candid than others), in our experience, 10% is the typical data point across elite universities — some years more, some years less.

Chances of Admission After Being Waitlisted

America’s elite universities tend to keep the number of students they each admit off their waitlists even closer to the vest.

In some years, like the 2019-2020 admissions cycle for the Class of 2024, the top schools admit hundreds of students off their waitlists. That year, colleges needed to fill their seats because many students opted to take gap years due to the pandemic. Harvard, for example, admitted 34 students off its waitlist to the Class of 2024. Other top schools reached even deeper down their waitlists.

In other years, like the 2020-2021 admissions cycle for the Class of 2025, America’s elite colleges barely turned to their waitlists. That year, Harvard did not accept a single student off its waitlist.

The lone constant is that the number of students admitted off a top college’s waitlist depends on the school’s yield (the percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll). That number, however, can vary yearly.

Below is a chart showcasing the yield at each of the eight Ivy League schools over the last six years (the Class of 2027 through the Class of 2022):

Ivy League SchoolClass of 2027 YieldClass of 2026 YieldClass of 2025 YieldClass of 2024 YieldClass of 2023 YieldClass of 2022 Yield
Brown University63.25%67.3%67.11%62.05%60.81%60.78%
Cornell University66.46%68.36%63.34%59.78%60.38%61.03%
Columbia University64.07%67.13%67.13%57.11%62%62.96%
Dartmouth College67.13%63.72%70.17%53.6%63.63%60.73%
Harvard UniversitySlightly Over 84%84%84.17%69.83%82.08%81.67%
Princeton University76.66%78.3278.32%62.45%70.45%69.02%
University of Pennsylvania69.66%67.88%73.18%61.26%69.65%67.33%
Yale University69.97%67.7%71.18%54.98%69.17%70.19%

Chances of Admission with Ivy Coach After Deferral

The below chart marks the percentage of students who first come to Ivy Coach as clients after a deferral in the Early Action/Early Decision round and enlist our services to optimize their case for admission in the Regular Decision round to that very institution.

Note that these figures do not include students who worked with Ivy Coach on their Early applications and received deferrals — as the Regular Decision admission figures for students whom we worked with on their Early applications are typically higher.

Note also that in the rare instances — typically less than 3% of students — in which we do not hear back from the student after Regular Decision notifications are released to learn of their decision, we count them as rejections.

Finally, there are several colleges among the top national universities in which we either did not keep the tally consistently over the last three decades and/or assisted too few deferred candidates to warrant inclusion.

College/University2024 US News National University RankingPercentage Over 30 Years of Students Who Enlist Ivy Coach’s Services After a Deferral Who Earn Admission to That School
Princeton University#140%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#228%
Harvard University#360%
Stanford University#333%
Yale University#533%
University of Pennsylvania#660%
California Institute of Technology#70%
Duke University#750%
Brown University#933%
Johns Hopkins University#933%
Northwestern University#933%
Columbia University#1257%
Cornell University#1233%
University of Chicago#1266%
University of California, Berkeley#15N/A (no Early policy)
University of California, Los Angeles#15N/A (no Early policy)
Rice University#17Incomplete Data
Dartmouth College#1866%
Vanderbilt University#18Incomplete Data
University of Notre Dame#20Incomplete Data
University of Michigan — Ann Arbor#21Incomplete Data
Georgetown University#2233%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill#22Incomplete Data
Carnegie Mellon University#2425%
Emory Univeresity#24Incomplete Data
University of Virginia#24Incomplete Data
Washington University in St. Louis#24Incomplete Data

Chances of Admission with Ivy Coach After Waitlisting

The figures are similar for students who first come to Ivy Coach as clients after being waitlisted. Yet because there are years in which some of America’s elite universities do not turn to their waitlists at all and other years in which they don’t even announce that they would not be turning to their waitlists, instead keeping it more or less a secret, the data is less clear cut.

That said, Ivy Coach’s success with students who first come to us as clients after being waitlisted is about the same as those who first come to us as clients after being deferred.

Anecdotally, over the years, we have helped students earn admission off waitlists to each of the schools ranked in the top 25 national universities in the 2024 US News & World Report ranking. Some years, we help several students earn admission off the waitlists for the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, Duke, MIT, Stanford, Northwestern, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, UChicago. Other years, fewer.

Yet no matter the year, Ivy Coach’s students take the same approach after being waitlisted: they submit compelling Letters of Continued Interest. That is a constant. The dependent variable, of course, is the individual school’s yield in a given year because that will determine just how deep the schools go on their waitlists — if at all.

What is a Letter of Continued Interest?

A Letter of Continued Interest is a note, typically about the length of a Personal Statement, sent to the school that has either deferred or waitlisted a student. It’s a chance for the student whose admission has been placed in limbo to make contact (usually with their regional representative on the admissions committee) to express their continued interest in attending if offered admission.

It’s a chance to sway an admissions officer who might be on the fence and to show how you hope to contribute to the school. When a student is deferred or waitlisted, it often means one admissions officer is in a student’s corner and one is not. A great Letter of Continued Interest sways both admissions officers.

Why an Ordinary Letter of Continued Interest Won’t Suffice

When students or parents who were not our clients write us that they already submitted material to a top university after a deferral or waitlisting, we tell them that our fingers and toes are crossed, and we wish them all the best. It’s our not-so-subtle way of saying there’s nothing we can do for them.

Think of it as though you’re approaching a physician, but you’ve already begun your course of treatment. Our treatment will be less effective, and it would diminish our statistics to treat this patient.

The inclination of many students — and particularly their parents — is to deluge colleges with tons of updates and information after a deferral or waitlisting. Congratulations on being named president of your school’s National Honor Society this week, but, sorry, Harvard doesn’t care. In short, the inclination is to brag and throw the kitchen sink at admissions officers. But this is the ordinary approach. And since most deferred or waitlisted students do not ultimately earn admission, it’s the wrong approach.

Ivy Coach’s Letters of Continued Interest Are Weird

The letters of the students who first come to Ivy Coach after being deferred at Harvard (and every other elite university) are weird. That’s right. Weird.

While they’re all unique, each reframes the student’s narrative in the most compelling way possible and showcases how the student intends to contribute their singular hook — rather than well-roundedness — to the institution’s programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and so much more. Note that we didn’t encourage students to name-drop professors or offer up a litany of classes, which tend to change yearly.

And all of Ivy Coach’s students’ letters issue a dare — dare admissions officers not to admit the student who created a quick, cheap test for oral cancer, or the student who figured out a way to herd sheep more effectively, or the student who created a line of socks made from bamboo. And on and on.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance Crafting a Powerful Letter of Continued Interest

If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s assistance in optimizing your case for admission after being deferred in the Early Action/Early Decision round or waitlisted in the Regular Decision round, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, indicate that you’ve been either deferred or waitlisted, and we’ll be in touch.

And remember, all we at Ivy Coach can do is give students the best chance of earning admission after being deferred or waitlisted. Deferred or waitlisted students never have a great chance — and if anyone suggests they have a great chance, we would say, “Run, run fast, and run for the hills!”

At the stressful time of year after deferrals and waitlists, we want to work only with families who understand their odds and are intent on giving themselves the best shot possible of admission. So to the parent who asks if we can offer a guarantee of admission after a deferral or waitlist, don’t be surprised if you are still waiting for a response.

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