Hello! As we know, college decisions are coming out, and you’re probably celebrating the acceptances you’ve earned after months and months of hard work. However, thousands of students are also receiving notification that they have been waitlisted. What to do in this situation?
You don’t have to stay on the waitlist. You’re probably fatigued with the admissions process at this point, and you may want to commit, quite happily, to one of the schools you did get in to.
If you were waitlisted from your dream school, however, or another school you would definitely choose over any of the ones you were accepted to, it can make sense to write a letter of continued interest, which is to say, an email to the admissions staff expressing your passion for that school. We’ll go over how to do that, what to include, and what not to include. At the end, we’ve included a sample waitlist letter, as well as a deferral letter sample, for future readers who are following up on post-early action deferrals.
The ground rule is to be brief and polite, and always trust your gut. Now let’s talk details.
What is a Letter of Continued Interest?
A letter of continued interest is, simply put, an email to your admissions officers expressing your interest in their university. The goal, of course, is to move up the waitlist and earn yourself an acceptance. You do that by showing your academic merit — if you’ve done anything new since you applied, that is — and showing you care.
How do you show that you care? The best way is to demonstrate to the university that you’ve done your research by mentioning key traits or requirements specific to that university. It’s a bit obvious, but it theoretically works.
Other blogs advise you to reach out to alumni, current students, or even professors, and then name-drop them in your letter of continued interest. This will really show the admissions office that you care — it takes time and effort to make connections — but keep in mind that those alumni and even professors have absolutely no say in your acceptance, so it’s really just a gimmick to show the admissions office how much you’re invested in the school. And the admissions office knows that.
Should I Write a Letter of Continued Interest?
But honestly, is a letter of continued interest worth it? That’s up to you.
On one hand, if this is your dream university, and you would do anything to get in — a letter of continued interest is the best thing to do. Do your research, be polite; we’ll discuss how exactly to craft a letter below.
On the other hand, you know full well how long you’ve spent applying to colleges. You know by now that it’s kind of a crapshoot, and lots of eligible applicants get waitlisted or rejected because there are limited spots in each university’s freshman class. A letter of continued interest might work, or it might not. So ask yourself: are you happy with the colleges you did get in to? Would you definitely go to the university you are considering writing to, or would you just like to have it in your array of options?
If you are satisfied with your current colleges, there’s no need to push for more. After all, you’re ultimately only going to attend one institution. It can be nice to take a deep breath, commit to a school, and tell the rest to hang themselves.
If you do want to be taken off the waitlist for one college in particular, and you want it badly, then writing a letter is a good idea. Here’s how:
How Do You Write a Letter of Interest for College?
As previously mentioned, your letter of continued interest should show your merit as a student, your passion for that school, and your “fit.”
“Fit” is a common term for how well you’d fit in at a particular college. Basically, the admissions staff want to know: if they let you in, will you attend that school? The best way for you to show this is to demonstrate that you’ve researched the university and that you are excited about the things which make it unique. You don’t want to write to a northeast school and tell them that you never feel happy in the cold.
As previously mentioned, you can reach out to alumni and faculty if you choose, although the only benefit here is to name-drop them in your admissions letter. If that doesn’t appeal to you, trust your gut and don’t do it.
The best way to write a successful waitlist letter is to research the university — if it’s your top choice, hopefully you already have — and then talk about a few specific things you like. These should be things which make the university unique — perhaps that college has a quirky culture which appeals to you, or a program which stands out. Maybe you have heard of a particular professor who teaches at that school. What you don’t want to do is mention something trite — the 500 clubs available (every school has those), the benefits of being in a city (there are countless universities in cities).
Furthermore, you can mention any recent achievements you have made. Maybe you started a cool internship, or finished a project. Keep this section short and sweet.
Finally, thank the admissions officers for their time, and end with an appropriate closing (sincerely, regards, etc).
Dos and Dont’s for What to Include in a Letter of Continued Interest
Do trust your gut. If you read other blogs telling you that only doing X, Y or Z will get you off the waitlist, it’s probably bullshit: colleges don’t release all the emails sent to them. We don’t have specific data in that area.
Do be brief, professional, and polite.
Do be genuine. Your admissions officers know you’re eighteen. They know you’ve been thinking about college for months, maybe a year, but “UChicago has been my dream school since I read my first economics picture book at age five” rings bullshit to everyone’s ears.
Don’t be overly verbose. Clear writing and professionalism will serve you better here.
Don’t pander. Admissions officers are looking for real, well-rounded people, not slavering sycophants. Do what feels good to you.
When Should You Send a Letter of Continued Interest?
Send a letter of continued interest only to schools from which you have been waitlisted or deferred.
You can send a letter during regular admissions, before decisions have been released — but frankly, that’s probably not going to get you anywhere. Admissions officers are swamped with work up until decisions are finalized and released, so the chances that they are going to both appreciate your long, unnecessary email and remember your name when your application comes up? Slim.
Most schools release their decisions in mid-March or early April, and most require a response by early May. Therefore, it’s best to email as soon as decisions are released, with the hope that you can get off the waitlist before May. (If you don’t, that’s fine — students are frequently accepted as late as June or July).
Should You Commit to Accepting if Admitted?
Before you even begin to write a letter, be honest with yourself: is this the school you want to go to? Would you definitely choose it over your other options?
If the answer is yes, do say so. Admissions officers are trying to admit students who will go to their university.
If the answer is no, you can say what is true: “I would love to attend X University” or something of the like. You don’t have to say ‘top choice’ if it isn’t your top choice.
You don’t want to commit to accepting, then be accepted and choose to go somewhere else. That leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It’s better to be honest from the start: commit if you mean it (and if you would commit, say so). Otherwise, just be positive but noncommittal.
Is it Better to Be Waitlisted or Deferred?
To clear up the terminology, students can be waitlisted at the end of the regular decisions round. This means that some number of applicants were accepted to a particular university, some were rejected, and others were put on a waitlist. If the accepted applicants choose to go to other universities, then new spots will open up, and some of the students on the waitlist will be granted acceptance.
Students are deferred from the early action / early decision round of admissions, back in November. This is when some EA/ED students are admitted, some — though few — are rejected, and others are deferred, which means that their application is forwarded to the regular decision round and will be considered again in January.
The two do not happen at the same time, and because every school does both waitlisting and deferrals differently, it’s impossible to come up with a general comparison. Both instances it can make sense for you to write a letter of continued interest.
Samples of Letters of Continued Interest
Letter of Continued Interest Sample – Deferred
Dear University X Admissions Office,
Hello! I hope this finds you well, in spite of these trying times. My name is Tim Swim and I have been deferred to the regular pool of applicants of University X. University X remains my top choice.
I have recently learned about the REF Initiative at University X empowering students to fight climate change and stop pollution in local areas. I am inspired to pursue environmental studies and have started an internship in my hometown, partnering with local cleanup crews to locate and fix leaks in the water system. The REF Initiative would be an amazing opportunity for me to further my environmental impact, and further solidifies my desire to attend University X.
Thank you for the time and effort that goes into selecting applicants for admission. I hope to hear from you, and thank you for reading.
(contact info optional)
Now, note that you don’t want to copy Tim Swim’s phrasing verbatim. Write what comes naturally to you. Do include a specific facet of that university, particularly related to academics, and how that relates to your interests. Do include something new you’ve done, if you have something to mention. Do be brief and to the point.
Letter of Continued Interest Sample – Waitlist
Scroll up to Tim Swim’s letter above, but instead of the line about being deferred, mention that you have been added to the waitlist.
Example: My name is Tom Swum, and I am currently on the waitlist for admittance to University X.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Write a Good Letter of Continued Interest
We hope this has shown you how to write a letter of continued interest, or at least provided you with a little insight into how college admissions work. Now you can write your letter, edit compulsively, draft several times and run it by countless friends. Then send it. The admissions office will print it out and review it in the same vein as applications: wad it up, dip it in sticky soda, and throw it at the wall. If it sticks, you’re in!
If you found this post helpful, you may also want to check our post on how to email an admissions officer.
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