The college admissions process can be brutal, especially for those students who are left in limbo by being delayed or placed on a waiting list. This disappointing status tells you that the school thought you were strong enough to enroll, but you didn’t make it to the first round of top candidates. As a result, you have to wait to find out what the future holds for you. On the other hand, you are not turned down, and you can often take steps to increase your chances of getting off the waiting list and eventually being accepted.
What to include in a letter of continuing interest
Assuming the college is explicitly stating that you should not write, your first step when you find yourself put on hold or on a waiting list should be to write a letter of continued interest. The tips below will help you write your letter.
- Send your letter to your designated admissions officer or admissions director. In most cases, you will write to the person who sent you the waiting list or deferral letter. Opening words such as “Who may it concern” are impersonal and will make your message seem general and cold.
- Confirm your interest in going to college and give some specific reasons why you want to go to college. Is there a program that you care about? Have you visited the campus and felt like college is right for you? Is college aligned with your professional and personal goals in a particular way?
- If college is your first choice school, feel free to inform the admissions office. When colleges offer to enroll, they want students to accept the offer. Strong output makes schools look good and helps hospitalization staff to efficiently fulfill their outreach tasks.
- Let the college know if you have important new information that you can add to your application. Have you received new and better SAT / ACT scores since your application? Have you won any significant awards or honors? Has your GPA increased? Don’t include trivial information, but feel free to highlight new achievements.
- Thank the admissions committee for taking the time to review your application materials.
- Make sure you include current contact information so the college can contact you. The waiting list can run in the summer, so make sure the college can reach you even if you’re traveling.
To see what effective writing might look like, check out a few examples of emails that generate ongoing interest. As a rule, these are small letters. You don’t want to impose too much on the front desk staff.
What not to include in a letter of continuing interest
There are various things you shouldn’t include in your continuing interest letter. They are:
- Anger or Frustration: You may feel both, but maintain a positive attitude towards writing. Show that you are mature enough to handle frustration wisely.
- Presumption: If you write like you’re going to get off the waiting list, you’ll likely sound arrogant.
- Despair: Your chances will not improve if you tell the college that you have no other options, or that you will die if you do not enroll. Highlight your ongoing interest, not your unenviable position on the waiting list.
General rules for a letter of continuing interest
Make sure the college accepts letters of continuing interest. If your waiting list or deferral letter states that you should not submit additional materials, you must respect the college’s wishes and show that you know how to follow directions.
Send an email as soon as you find out that you have been put on hold or on the waiting list. Your responsiveness helps show your eagerness to participate (interest is important!), and some schools start accepting students from their waiting lists shortly after the lists are created.
Keep your letter on one page. There should be no more room than this to declare your ongoing interest, and you should respect the busy schedule of the reception staff.
Physical writing isn’t always the best option. Read the admissions website to find out if the college is requesting materials electronically or in physical form. An old-school paper letter looks nice and is easy to insert into an applicant’s physical file, but if the college processes all application materials electronically, it will be inconvenient for someone to scan your paper letter to include it in their file.
Pay attention to grammar, style and presentation. If your letter of continuing interest looks like it was sent in two minutes and written by a third grader, you will lessen your chances, not help them.
The last word
Will your continuing interest letter improve your chances of admission? Can. At the same time, you must be realistic. In most cases, the odds of getting off the waiting list are not in your favor. But when a college turns to a waiting list, or when a school considers the general pool of applicants in a deferral, the interest shown matters. Your letter of continuing interest is not a magic wand, but it can certainly play a positive role in this process.