Waitlisted? How to improve the chances of getting accepted.

I remember anxiously waiting during my senior year to receive the decision for my application to Harvard. When it finally arrived, I had a mix of emotions:

I was waitlisted.

After putting in so much hard work into my studies, clubs, and sports, I was deflated and confused. At the time I had wished for either an acceptance or denial (of course, more so the acceptance than the denial) — at least either of those options would give me closure. Being waitlisted meant I would have to continue being in suspense until a decision was made.

But, then I realized being waitlisted meant I had a fighting chance of still getting in.

If a student has been waitlisted by one of their top choice schools and has accomplished something noteworthy since submitting their application, sending an update letter or essay can help improve their chances of moving off the waitlist. Here are three things a student can do:

  1. Find out the process for submitting an update: When sending out waitlist decisions, some schools will inform students how to send an update. They’ll allow for the chance to send in a letter or an essay. Other schools might not communicate the process upfront, so make the student contacts the admissions office to learn how to send an update and where to send it.
  2. Write a strong update: This is a student's last chance to express why they would be an excellent fit for the college of interest. Did they leave anything out of their application that they would now like to mention? Have they achieved a major accomplishment since submitting their application such as winning an award, improving their grades, or leading a special activity? A student should approach writing this update with at least the same intensity they had when writing their application essay.
  3. Express intent to enroll if admitted: If a student is set on attending this college, they should express their seriousness about enrolling. Make sure they think this one through before adding it to the update. Would the student attend this college even if they don’t get awarded any scholarships from the school?

Demonstrating interest with this approach can sometimes help improve a student's chances of moving off the waitlist and getting in. While it will still be a tough sell, it may be enough to differentiate a student from the dozens of others on the waitlist.

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