Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Being waitlisted is a tough experience. You’ve tried so hard: you’ve put time, energy, and effort into crafting the perfecting application. Whether it’s from your dream school or perfect summer program, being on the waitlist certainly feels like a rejection, even if doesn’t involve a rejection letter.
Although this may be hard to believe, being waitlisted is actually good news! It means that you still have a chance at acceptance. All top universities, schools, and summer programs have fewer spots than they do qualified applicants (Yale, for example, had nearly 37,000 applicants for only 1,570 spots this year) — and their extension of a spot on the waitlist to you means that they see you as a qualified participant, but one whom they just can’t accommodate right now.
Even at top universities, not every student who is offered a spot accepts it. 75 students got off of Cornell’s waitlist in 2018, and hopefully the steps I’ll share with you will help prove to the admissions committee that you would make a fine addition to their community, and will convince them to take you off the waitlist. This has worked for one of our students who was recently accepted to Amherst College, whose acceptance rate this year was around 4.5% — around Harvard’s acceptance rate!
1) Don’t forget to tell the committee you want to stay on the waitlist! Many students assume that they’re on it once the school/program has offered them a spot. Be sure to take them up on the offer.
2) Create a continued interest letter and make sure it is school-specific. This is your opportunity to show that you are still hoping for acceptance to your dream school or program! You can also use this to address weak spots in your application. I’ll expand on this a little later.
3) Consider visiting the school again and setting up a meeting with an admission officer. Some schools will put this in your file — and personal contact with the people reading your application can never hurt.
4) If you know any alumni from the program whom you’ve known for a while in a professional, academic, or personal setting, see if they consider you a good fit for the alma-mater. If so, they can vouch for you by sending a letter of support.
I’d like to to tell you a little more about the second step I mentioned. Writing a letter of continued interest will give you the chance to thank the admissions committee for their consideration and demonstrate your dedication to the school. The letter you write should be specific to your experience and your style, but do be sure to name the specific things that make the school/program perfect for you — and the specific things that make you perfect for it...
Below, you’ll find an example of a letter of continued interest that one of our very own team members, David Lysenko, wrote when put on the waitlist of Georgetown University — from which he is now graduating with an excellent marks and a long list of accomplishments and awards, including a Critical Language Scholarship and an internship at the State Department. His experience of being taken off the waitlist serves a reminder to all of us that it can be done — especially with the right approach to the situation.
"Dear [name of admissions officer],
Thank you for taking the time to review my application for the class of 2019 and offering
me a place on the waitlist. Georgetown has been my top choice for many years because of the many wonderful things I heard about the University from alumni, current undergraduates, and my brother-in-law, [name redacted], an adjunct law professor at the law school. During my multiple visits to the school in the past year, I attended tours, information sessions, and spoke to students on campus, all of which made it clear to me that Georgetown would be an ideal fit for me. If admitted from the waitlist, I would definitely attend.
I believe that my strong interest in the interconnection between international relations and
psychology make me an excellent match for the Walsh School of Foreign Service. In particular, I am compelled by the School’s philosophy of non-violence and strong emphasis on the use of diplomacy over military action to solve international crises. At the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, I could explore how to use diplomacy to diffuse the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. As a first generation Ukrainian-American, I have a special interest in the Russo- Ukrainian conflict and hope to contribute a unique perspective. At no other school could I have the opportunity to discuss peaceful methods of solving the challenges that face our world with current and past congressmen and ambassadors, as offered through the Institute’s Distinguished Practitioners Series. The potential to learn negotiation techniques from professors like former Secretary of State and UN Delegate Madeleine Albright is exactly what draws me to Georgetown. Likewise, I hope to apply for a Mortara Research Fellowship to investigate the best way to bridge the gap between post-Soviet States, like Ukraine, and West nations.
I also want to take this opportunity to update my application. My ethics teacher has offered
to write an additional letter of recommendation on my behalf. The subject I studied with him
closely corresponds to my intended major and core classes at Walsh, such as the Political &
Social Thought course. Additionally, this summer I will work as a research assistant for Pamela Morris, a New York University Professor of Applied Psychology, and director of the Institute for Human Development and Social Change. I will help her and her team investigate the effectiveness of mandatory, public pre-kindergarten. At Georgetown, I hope to continue to
actively participate in my fields of study and community, and further demonstrate my
commitment to improving the lives of the people around me.
Thank you for your time and continued consideration. I would be honored to be offered a
place in Georgetown University Class of 2019.
David Lysenko" P.S. Special thanks to Leora Eisenberg and David Lysenko for helping me craft this piece.