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The Ivy Coach Daily

July 27, 2021

A Ridiculous College Waitlist Campaign

A waitlisted student to Cornell ran an ad campaign to try to get out of limbo (photo credit: BoBigRed).

Thinking of doing something crazy after being waitlisted by an elite university? Maybe you want to send a cheesecake or baked ziti to the admissions office. Or pitch a tent outside the admissions office. Or buy a bus ad imploring admissions officers to pluck you from limbo. If so, know that such approaches are not only unoriginal but also unlikely to be successful. The best path forward after being waitlisted is always to send in a memorable, unique letter demonstrating your continued interest in attending. And yet some folks just don’t get it, going to extraordinary lengths to not only not improve their case for admission off the waitlist but arguably even hurt their candidacy.

A Waitlisted Candidate to Cornell Ran a Bus Ad to Try to Get Off the Waitlist

Allow us to share an example. As Matt Steecker reports for The Ithaca Journal in a piece entitled “Student runs unique marketing campaign after getting waitlisted by Cornell. Did it work?,” “After discovering he was placed on the waitlist for the Cornell University Dyson School of Applied Economics, 18-year-old George Joseph White V, of the Hamlet of Selkirk located south of Albany, had the type of reaction you would expect most students to have. ‘I’m generally an optimistic person,’ White said. ‘When I first got waitlisted, I was disappointed I was not accepted, but it was not the end of the world to me.’ His optimism kept him going. What he did afterward was beyond ordinary. He and his family brainstormed some unique ways to try to get him accepted. In early May, he talked with his aunt and they brainstormed a marketing campaign called George Can’t Wait! They reached out to staff and faculty for interviews, created a a website, a bus ad and White appeared for a talk on WHCU. And while it makes people wonder where White got the money to run the campaign, it actually did not cost as much as people would expect…Ultimately, White learned in June that he was not accepted from the waitlist, but he still sees silver linings and views the marketing campaign as successful. ‘We were able to get past the gatekeepers and able to get to certain staff members and faculty at the Dyson School,’ White said.”

Waitlisted Candidates Should Not Run Bus Ads or Pitch Tents

So, wait, let’s get this straight. Paying for a bus advertisement didn’t wow admissions officers? Perhaps that money spent on plastering one’s mug on a bus could have been better spent on, say, a charitable and less self-serving cause? Who ever would have thought? Oy vey is right! But while we would never recommend a student run any campaign of the sort, we will share with our readers a story once relayed to us by our dear friend, the late Richard Moll. Richard ran admissions at Bowdoin College, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Vassar College. He also worked in admissions at Yale University. During his time at Yale in the 1960s, a student who was waitlisted came to the office and told everyone that if he didn’t get off the waitlist he was going to pitch a tent right underneath the admissions office and wait there until he was admitted. The admissions officers all looked at each other thinking, “Ok, another crazy kid.” But a few minutes later, there was a pounding noise outside and sure enough this kid was hammering stakes into the ground to pitch his tent. The next morning, as he was making scrambled eggs using a frying pan on a Sterno, The Yale Daily News came to see him, took his picture and he gave an interview. That afternoon, the story was published and an hour or so later the entire admissions office came down and handed him his offer of admission.” But do remember…this story was from the 1960s. We’d never recommend a waitlisted student do anything of the sort these days. And that includes running bus ads!

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