How to Pry Yourself Loose From the "Wait List"

It’s a weird letter.

This year’s batch of applications was the largest and most qualified ever.  Each applicant was gifted, had perfect grades and SAT scores, cured a deadly disease over the summer and can juggle seven dinner plates while singing our fight song.

But we’re NOT rejecting you.

However, you’re not “in,” either.


I won’t kid you, it’s not easy to get off the wait list.  But you DO have a chance.

If you want to get out of College Purgatory, here are five tips you should follow:

  1. Tell admissions that you want “in.”  Admissions officers care about their “Yield,” the ratio of admitted (not deferred!) applicants to matriculated students.  The higher the ratio, the more desirable-looking the college.  This means higher rankings.  Open a dialogue, try to find out where you fall on the list, if they will tell you.  And if you can tell your admissions officer in good faith that, if they let you in, you will attend, do so! These are magic words that can work.

  2. Update your file with new academic information.  Send in any new grades or scores if they will help your cause.  (Hint -a “D” in Pop Culture probably won’t help.)

  3. Update your file with new awards or honors received. 

  4. Send an additional recommendation letter from another teacher, employer, internship supervisor, etc.  Not Mommy’s or Daddy’s alum friend who barely knows your child.

  5. Communicate regularly, but do NOT overdo it.  Showing you’re interested via Steps 1-4 is great.  Sending cookies or other gifts is gimmicky and over the top.  Camping outside of the admissions office is creepy.

Good luck!

Your Correspondent,

– Andy Lockwood

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