Linda Abraham

Article Summary:

How to take a pro-active approach if you’ve been placed on a waiting list.

From Wait List to Accepted List

If you’ve been put on a waiting list, I encourage you to seize the initiative and launch a campaign. Unless the school discourages additional contact, take a pro-active approach. You have already shown that you qualify for the school; otherwise you wouldn’t find yourself on the wait-list. They like you. Now give the adcom additional reasons to admit you by writing a succinct wait-list letter:

1) First of all, follow the instructions provided in the letter advising you of your wait-list status. If the letter says, "Jump!" and you want to go to that school, you should respond, "How high?" If applicable, agree to take any additional courses or follow any additional instructions recommended. Express your willingness to provide any additional information requested by the committee.

2) Reiterate your interest in the school’s program. Briefly thank the school for continuing to consider your application and mention how the school’s philosophy and approach fit your educational preferences and goals. Don’t dwell on your disappointment at not being accepted.

3) Discuss recent achievements. Did you have a 4.0 during the last quarter? Have you led a project or organization? Volunteered? Have you taken your department, business, or club in a new direction? Have you had an article published? Earned a patent? Launched a business? Received a promotion or assumed additional responsibility? Succeeded in a particularly demanding class or project? You should bring out any recent accomplishments not discussed in your application and ideally tie them back to some of the themes or experiences you raised in your essay(s).

4) Discuss how you have addressed shortcomings — without highlighting them. For example, if you enrolled in Toastmasters to improve your English, inform the adcom that you joined Toastmasters two months ago, tell them of any awards you have won, and enlighten them as to how much you are enjoying the experience. BUT don’t say that you are doing all this because you are concerned about your low TOEFL or sub-standard verbal score.

5) If you are certain you would attend this school, make it clear that this is your first choice and that you will attend if accepted.

Keep the letter short and sweet — two pages max. Don’t succumb to the temptation to rewrite or even summarize your life history or essay(s). Stay focused on what you have accomplished since applying.

Then plan a campaign of regular, but not pesky, contact designed to demonstrate your interest in and fit with this program. Three to four weeks after you send in your initial letter, submit an additional letter of recommendation. After another three to four weeks go by, send in another update and/or another recommendation. Follow this with a phone call and offer to interview, either in person or over the phone. If you are informed of your wait-list status later in the application cycle, contact the schools at more frequent intervals than outlined.

If feasible, plan to visit the school and see if you can set up an appointment with a member of the adcom. If you haven’t previously done so, ask for a tour, attend a class, and meet with students. Then write the school and say how the visit strengthened your conviction that you and School X are a match.

Show them that you are committed to attend, demonstrate that you are "new and improved" since you initially applied, and you’ll increase your chances of moving from the Wait List to the Accepted List.

In addition to personally advising hundreds of applicants over the last decade, Linda Abraham is the founder and president of, the premier online resources for college and graduate school applicants. She has written and lectured on different aspects of the admissions process, hosted a successful series of online admissions events, and developed the foremost application editing and advising services on the Web. Linda has been quoted by The NY Times, The Wall St. Journal, Businessweek, Business 2.0, The Washington Times, The Sunday Times, and other fine publications.

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