If you determine that the wait might be worthwhile and you want to stay on a school’s wait-list, here’s what you should do and what you should avoid doing.
- Follow instructions carefully and quickly. One way to show them you care is to respond right away.
- Write, not email, a letter to your college admissions representative or the director of admissions. This letter is often referred to as a “Letter of Continued Interest. Make sure your letter covers the following points:
- Emphasize “fit”: Tell them convincingly why their college is a good fit for you, and do your best to stay away from generic reasons such as their great football team or exciting Greek life. Describe what you’ve been looking for in your college search, identify classes and/or professors that are appealing to you. Research their student activities and reference activities that you participated in during high school that you’d like to continue. Be enthusiastic but not saccharine.
- Include an update on what you’ve been doing: Provide the admissions office with your first semester grades and even the grades you anticipate receiving for second semester. If you’ve won any honors, scholarships awards, commendations, etc., make sure to mention them, as well. Tell them about your continued community service involvement with any new details of what’s happened since you submitted your application, such as events you’ve led or fundraisers you’ve managed.
- Add a resume if you didn’t submit one with the original application.
- Be honest. If you can comfortably state that if you are accepted that you will attend that college, then make sure you let them know. Remember, many wait-listed students will have made other decisions, and anyone who is willing to commit to attending means less time the office needs to focus on finalizing their freshman class.
- Prepare a flash drive of your work, if appropriate. If you are a musician or artist or have completed an in-depth research project, put it on a drive and include it with your letter.
- Share your summer plans, but only if they’re meaningful. Don’t bother if you plan to work on your tan, but if your summer will include an internship or job-shadowing opportunity, let them know.
- Ask your high school guidance counselor to put in a good word for you. Ask them if they’d be willing to contact the admissions office on your behalf.
- Consider a visit. It is definitely not necessary, and you certainly don’t want to appear desperate, but sometimes sharing in your letter that your “recent visit reconfirmed that School X is your first choice” can be a powerful statement.
- Ask a senior teacher or your high school principal for an additional letter of recommendation. Check with each college since some colleges specifically request that you do NOT send additional letters of recommendation.
- Don’t go overboard and make your letter three pages long. Be concise and substantive.
- Don’t do crazy things like sending food or silly notes. The classic one is sending a shoe with a note attached that says, “Just trying to get my foot in the door!” Been done before – doesn’t work.
- Don’t obsess. You CAN be happy at more than one school.