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What To Do If You Are Waitlisted By Your Dream College?

19/04/20248 minute read
What To Do If You Are Waitlisted By Your Dream College?

The waitlist can be a source of both hope and confusion. You're not rejected outright, but you also don't have a guaranteed spot. Having helped hundreds of students navigate the complexities of college admissions, let's break down the waitlist, why it exists, and how to give yourself the best possible chance of getting in.

Tips for Dealing with Rejections and Waitlists with Jamie Beaton

Why Do Colleges Use Waitlists?

  • Too Many Qualified Applicants: Especially at selective schools, there are simply more excellent candidates than available spots. The waitlist is a way to keep promising students in the picture.
  • Protecting the Yield: Colleges closely track their "yield rate," the percentage of accepted students who choose to enroll. This is vital for planning. The waitlist acts as insurance if the predicted yield is too high.
  • Yield Uncertainty: Even with data, colleges can't be 100% sure how many accepted students will choose them. The waitlist offers flexibility.
  • Strategic Enrollment Shaping: Colleges aim to build a well-rounded incoming class with diverse majors, backgrounds, and talents. If the initial acceptances fall short in certain areas, the waitlist allows them to fill gaps strategically.
  • A Softer Landing: Rejecting strong applicants outright can sting and damage relationships with high schools. The waitlist allows the college to maintain that positive connection, showing they still see potential in the student.

Okay, I'm Waitlisted. What Should I Do?

The waitlist can be a strange place but don't despair. While there are no guarantees, there are actions you can take to maximize your chances while also protecting your options. Here's your roadmap:

1. Accept the Spot (or Decline)

First, decide whether to even stay on the waitlist. If you're absolutely sure this college is no longer a good fit, decline the waitlist spot immediately. This decision is permanent. If there's any chance you'd attend if admitted, accept your place on the waitlist. Follow the college's instructions, as there might be specific forms or communication required, and be mindful of deadlines.

2. Write a Powerful Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI)

This isn't just about restating your interest; it's about showing your growth and demonstrating why you're an even stronger fit for the college. Remember to:

  • Reiterate Your Passion: Be specific about why this college remains a top choice for you.
  • Highlight Significant Updates: Showcase achievements, improved grades, new leadership roles, etc., since you applied. Did you discover a specific passion related to the college's strengths?
  • Demonstrate Continued Interest: Mention specific resources, professors, or unique opportunities the school offers that excite you. Have your interests evolved since applying?
  • Share Your Future Plans: How do your goals fit the college's mission? Are you planning interesting summer activities relevant to your intended major?
  • Stay Concise and Professional: Make every word count. This should be more formal than a casual email.

3. Have a Plan B (and C)

Waitlists are unpredictable, so it's essential to protect your future by choosing a different college you love and paying the deposit by the May 1st deadline. This secures your spot and provides peace of mind, even if the waitlist eventually works out. Also, consider alternative paths if the waitlist doesn't pan out:

  • Transfer pathways: Is another college a better stepping stone to your dream school?
  • Gap years: Could a year of work, travel, or focused study enrich your experience?

4. Stay Positive and Patient

I understand that waiting creates stress, but try to focus on finishing your senior year strong and enjoying the school you've committed to. The waitlist process can take time, so stay patient (and don't forget to keep demonstrating interest in your desired college).

5. Additional Steps to Boost Your Chances

  • Check for Updates: Some colleges might request additional information after you're waitlisted, such as updated transcripts. Be sure to follow any specific instructions from the college.
  • Communicate: Stay in touch with your regional admissions officer, letting them know about updates to your profile. Feel free to ask about the waitlist timeline and if there's anything else you can provide. Direct communication often demonstrates continued interest.
  • Improve if You Can: There's no guarantee it'll make a difference, but continued dedication to academics and extracurriculars won't hurt. If you can retake the SAT/ACT or raise your GPA, it might give you an edge!
  • Consider Sending Supplemental Materials: If the college accepts them, providing updated transcripts or an additional recommendation could strengthen your application. Make sure to verify this with the college before sending anything.

Important Note: If you get admitted off the waitlist, you'll likely forfeit the deposit at your Plan B school.

Example of a Compelling LOCI

Dear Stanford Admissions,

Since graduating, I’ve focused on self-exploration, seeking to deepen core interests but also forage in new areas. 

I have a new fascination with extreme sport. I confess, much to the sadness of the critics on Rotten Tomato, that I was triggered by the action movie xXx, featuring Vin Diesel. The airborne scenes in xXx made me realize that I’ve literally never felt an airborne sensation except flying so I changed that! On January 14th, I bungy jumped at the Nevis bungy in Queenstown, New Zealand, which has a record-breaking 134m drop. The only thing worse than wind howling against your body overlooking a gaping canyon is realizing you have to jump into it! Paradoxically, I loved it. I was falling so fast in fact that if I were to equate KE with GPE, estimating the equilibrium position of the rope at half the height, I would have flown at an astounding 130km/h!

I also enrolled in a rock climbing gym called “Climb Fit”. Funnily enough, I predominantly climb with Physic Club mates. We aren’t the usual climbers with our constant physics jokes but we are a community. I can’t wait to further my climbing at the Stanford Climbing Wall which seems to have the most Yelp reviews of any climbing wall I’ve ever seen!

My fascination with artificial intelligence has grown since the victory of AlphaGo as I plot Australia wide expansion of MCQuizzKnox and our Android rollout. As I read about growth hacks to amplify app downloads, I was surprised to find how many companies pay Facebook heavily to drive app downloads. I discovered how intensively Facebook’s advertising platform uses data science and machine learning. I’d love to understand how these kind of algorithms work theoretically but also be able to think through applications into new businesses. As I continue to broaden my understanding of data science, I come across more and more Stanford inspired coursework with innovative partners like Coursera and practical Data Science Master’s degrees. While I’ve only started with Statistical Reasoning on Stanford’s online platform, I get excited about developing these interests as a Stanford student alongside challenging peers. The number of Stanford recruits getting hired in high stakes positions at Facebook and Snapchat is electrifying. 

I’ve also been running HSC seminars on Maths and Physics at Knox. Last year, I found these seminars helpful but there was a real need to improve them for the next wave of the Knox “Tartan” army. 

While I care about Knox, the challenges students face are more profound in China. My sister and I started an organization called LEAFA (Learning and Education Available For All). In December, we collected 1500 books from Knox families, Aussie libraries and garage sales (bargain hunting the 50 cent copies) to be shipped to my mum’s rural middle school called Jinshan ZhongXue. We hope our humble start will be a powerful tool for educational empowerment in this community. 

I’ve taken concrete action to fight against air pollution in China by volunteering as a photographer for The Nature Conservancy. While statistics are crucial, vivid images, which translates the toxic environment many Chinese citizens struggle with everyday, are powerful tools in soliciting donations in the West. 

Stanford has inspired environmental conservationists like Professor Gretchen Daily to practical design-centred engineering masterminds like Evan Spiegel. I am thrilled by the university’s interest in my candidacy and I hope to develop my sprawling passions within a community of gifted quantitative minds, social entrepreneurs and changemakers. 

Yours Sincerely,

Final Thoughts

Navigating the waitlist requires careful strategy and a proactive approach. Remember, while getting off the waitlist isn't guaranteed, taking the steps outlined above significantly improves your chances. By crafting a powerful LOCI, staying positive, protecting your options with a Plan B, and continuing to demonstrate your interest, you position yourself as a strong candidate should a spot open up.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to approach your specific waitlist situation, don't hesitate to seek professional guidance. The experts at Crimson Education can help you develop a personalized strategy, tailor your LOCI, and navigate every step of this process to maximize your chances of admission. Book a consultation today to get started and take control of your college journey.