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4 Strategies for Getting Yourself off the Waiting List and into Your Dream School

Ivy Divider

waiting list sparkleThe unimaginable has occurred. You have been waitlisted at the school of your dreams. Even Frank Bruni’s lighthearted jibes about plunging Ivy League admission rates don’t soften the blow of Yale and Harvard’s record low acceptances this year. The class of 2020 at each of these esteemed institutions comprises just slightly more than 5% of the applicant pool, leaving the vast majority of applicants to cope with rejection or – worse – the uncertainty of being placed on a college waiting list.

Even though Yale waitlisted roughly as many students as they accepted, and it can be hard to know your status on any college waiting list, we are here to tell you not to give up hope. We’ve been through this before, and we want to remind you that getting placed on a waiting list doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough or qualified enough. It means that the world is crazy, and every year schools look at larger and larger selections of equally qualified and talented applicants. In the unfortunate limbo of the waiting list, you still have a chance of getting in. You’ve just bought yourself a little extra time to sell yourself to admissions by writing a stellar letter. Of course, you want to make sure to highlight the right qualities and accomplishments, so we made you a guide:

1. Show off your latest accomplishments.

Did you boost your GPA since you submitted your transcript? Receive any awards? Start any new and exciting projects? These are all relevant details that will demonstrate your continued academic achievement and motivation. Admissions officers want to know that you are an intellectually curious soul, and that you didn’t just tune out once you submitted your application. Plus, this is a great opportunity to fill any gaps that may have been in your original application, especially grades. A general progress update will help you showcase your ability to follow through on commitments and give admissions officers the most accurate picture of who you will be when you exit high school and enter college.

2. Be specific.

Getting placed on the waiting list could mean that admissions officers are waiting to see if you really are a good fit for their institution. So, revisit your notes, any emails exchanged with students or professors, and any other memorabilia that will help you tap into your genuine excitement about the school. Do some more research about the latest developments at the school and think honestly about how this school suits your intellectual, academic, and social needs. Fill your letter with details that show your that continued engagement and enthusiasm for the school are more than just blind obsession.

3. Let your genuine passion shine through.

Be vulnerable. Maybe your application was incredibly polished and creative. Now is the time to show another side of yourself, and to wax poetic about what this opportunity really means to you. Writing an honest and heartfelt message may be a challenge during a time when you are feeling rejected and maybe even angry at the people to whom you are addressing your letter, but your mature resilience will ultimately set you apart from the pack.

4. Don’t go overboard.

Your thoughts, feelings, and achievements are what will ultimately get you off the waiting list and into the school of your details. Tactics that will likely land you in the permanent reject pile include: camping out at the admissions office; bribery of any kind; denigrating other applicants; sending a barrage of emails; having your parents send a barrage of emails; claiming a school is your first choice when it really isn’t; or questioning the judgement of the admissions department in any way. You’re better than these dirty tactics, and chances are, they will hurt you more than they help. The best way to pursue a school that has waitlisted you is simply to continue to be your awesome self. One way or another, things will work out.

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