Waitlisted? Write a Letter of Continued Interest

Waitlists essentially used to be soft rejections. But times have changed.

Changing Times

Test-optional admissions in 2020 brought a surge in applications to desirable colleges. That surge in applications led to lower admit rates, and increased competition led to increased uncertainty for applicants who could no longer as accurately predict where they would get admitted. As a result, the number of applications (and uncertainty) has been driven higher every year since then.

But the uncertainty has not only increased for applicants. Because students keep applying to more colleges, colleges are increasingly uncertain whether an acceptance letter will lead to a student actually enrolling. In short, colleges can no longer as accurately predict their yield rate (what percentage of admitted students will enroll), and — on average — yield rates have dropped (especially for score-submitting students who are less likely to enroll if admitted because they have more options from more college acceptance letters).

Facing uncertainty, colleges have been forced to utilize their waitlists more than ever before because they don’t want to give out too many initial acceptance letters and over-enroll their class, but they are yielding too few of their admitted students to fill their class so they have to dip ever more into the waitlist to hit their full enrollment numbers.

Movement Off The Waitlist

That gives waitlisted students a genuine possibility of making it off the waitlist. Here are the best tips for doing so:

  • If you are highly interested in the school and able to do so, go visit. An official, on the books, visit in which the school has a record of you visiting will help you show the school that you are serious and enthusiastic about continuing to be considered.
  • Next, write a letter of continued interest (if you can’t go visit, still do this). In it, do the following:
    1. Express gratitude for the continued opportunity to be considered for admission.
    2. If you would immediately enroll if given an acceptance letter, let them know that. Colleges want to know if they are your first choice because every college wants to increase its yield rate, so a college is more likely to give you an acceptance letter if it knows you will enroll. If the school is not your first choice, don’t lie, but do reaffirm your interest in attending. If you visited, explain why the visit solidified even more that the school is your first choice.
    3. Update them on your activities and grades. Show that you have stayed active in your community (both inside and outside of school), you have continued to challenge yourself, and you have continued to excel. Colleges want to admit students who will be active participants in the college community because this participation enhances the experience of other students, leads to higher retention rates and greater alumni giving, etc.
    4. Reaffirm that you are grateful for the time of the admissions officers and for the continued consideration.

If you’d like assistance, we’re happy to help.

Inevitable Success

Although it’s very, very, very hard to do, if you don’t get admitted, try not to take it personally. Colleges have a long laundry list of institutional priorities: “Did we accept someone from Nebraska this year? Did we accept enough History majors to keep the professors in that department happy? Do we have all of our athletic recruitment spots filled?” Etc, etc, etc. You might have been a perfect fit, but they gave your spot to someone else to fill an institutional priority. Is that frustrating? Yes. Does it happen? All the time. Is life fair? No. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Absolutely not. Keep trying. Keep working hard. Success is all but inevitable if you do not let a temporary obstacle stop you.


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