So you’ve opened up your application portal and clicked on your decision notification, only to find that the committee is still undecided. That’s right, you’ve been waitlisted. What next?
Accept the Waitlist Invitation
First and foremost, check to see whether your school requires that you accept a waitlist invitation, and if so, make sure you do. The most important part about being on the waitlist is expressing your commitment to the school, so being quick with your decision will be your first step in showing the school that you are still interested.
Re-evaluate Your Application
Next, you should closely evaluate all the materials that you submitted for your application and try to identify how they could be improved. Did you sufficiently demonstrate your ability to lead by holding leadership positions in your extracurriculars and taking on your own initiatives? Do you have any updates that occurred after you submitted that could demonstrate your growth? Or perhaps you simply need to bolster your academic performance by working hard your senior spring to raise your GPA for your final transcript. Assess these different aspects of your application and come up with a few ways in which it may have been lacking. These will be your focus points when writing your waitlist letter.
Submit a Letter to the Admissions Office
Once you’ve identified ways to improve your application, you are now ready to start drafting your waitlist letter. While not required at every university, writing to the admissions office at your school of choice is your chance to demonstrate your dedication and make up for any of the weak points in your old application.
Begin by enthusiastically expressing that you are still committed to the school. Although the admissions office knows that you are following through from your waitlist invitation, they don’t have a sense for how interested you are in being offered a spot. That is, unless you explicitly say so.
Next, acknowledge the shortcomings that you identified in your application. Not only will this show the school that you have put more thought into what you submitted, but it will also be the perfect transition into providing new supplementary materials or updates that compensate for them.
Finally, tell the school why you think they should change their minds. Maybe you have taken up a new leadership position since submitting your application. Maybe you started a public service initiative in your local community. Or perhaps you recently took a class that made you gain a new perspective. Whatever the case, now is your time to present yourself again in a new and improved way.
Contact Your Resources
After submitting your waitlist letter, consider other resources you have to advocate on your behalf. You could reach out to another mentor for a letter of recommendation: maybe you did particularly well in a class during your senior fall and could ask the teacher to write about having you in their class, or maybe you had a great last season in your winter sport and could ask your coach. You could also ask your college counselor to contact the school directly. If you had a great interview, you could even get in touch with your alumni interviewer and ask them about what next steps they would recommend.
After you have submitted your waitlist letter and contacted your other resources, now comes the hardest part: waiting. While it can be frustrating to wait for the committee’s decision, you don’t want to come off as too persistent. Just like with your first application, the admissions office will need time to digest your applications materials. In the meantime, submit a deposit at another school to make sure that you will have somewhere to go next fall, keep your spring semester grades in check (no senioritis!), and trust that you have done everything in your power to take on this next round of decisions.