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April 4, 2013 / NextStepU

5 Ways to Get Accepted from a College Wait List

confusedIf you get put on a wait list for a college or university, it means that the admissions committee will review your file again if the school has fewer students accept spots than they anticipated. Generally, schools don’t even begin to look at this until after the May 1 deadline for deposits. Therefore, you may not hear if you have been accepted from the wait list until May, June, or even later.

While there are no guarantees for admission, there are five ways to increase your odds of acceptance from a college wait list.

Step 1: Write a Letter
Everyone trying to get admitted from the wait list should write a letter. You should send a hard copy as well as e-mail it to the director of admissions.

It is very important that the letter be well written and upbeat. Do not grovel or beg, but be direct in explaining exactly why you want to attend the school.

Make sure that you clearly describe the characteristics that you have that make you an excellent candidate for the school. Tell them exactly what you can bring to the college. Then clearly describe what qualities the college has that would improve your life.

In addition to telling them why their college is such a perfect fit for you, also tell them of recent successes that were not on your application. Provide any updates on your academic achievements. An example could be something like, “I raised my Art History grade from a B- to a B+.” If you have done any other activities—applied for a part-time job, entered a contest, or a volunteered for an organization—you should also mention those.

You need to write out your letter and proofread it carefully. Also, make sure that you get someone else to look at it as well to provide you with some feedback. You can find five template letters here.

Step 2: Send an Additional Letter of Recommendation
If your wait-listed college allows you to submit supplemental materials, you may want to arrange for an additional letter of recommendation.  You can send one extra letter of recommendation from a teacher, coach, or administrator.

Make sure that your letter writer can explain why you are a good fit for the school. You want to make sure the letter reveals whom you are and what you can bring to the schools to which you are applying. It is therefore very important that you select your letter writer carefully.

How do you choose your reference?

Ideally, the teacher should be a recent one. It is also better if you approach a teacher that you have in an academic subject because they can specifically comment on your academic capabilities and provide an example about your work in the classroom.

If you wrote a strong paper or did a top-notch lab report or gave a stellar class presentation, consider approaching the teacher for that course.

Step 3: Ask your School Counselor to Intervene
You might also consider asking your guidance counselor to intervene on your behalf. You can request that they call the college admissions office and ask about your chances of being admitted from the wait list.

Sometimes, guidance counselors know particular admissions folks. They might be able to help with a phone call.

Before you ask your guidance counselor to go to bat for you, give them a list that explains exactly what benefit you will get from admission to your wait-listed college.

You want to make sure your counselor has specific examples that they can share with the admissions office when they talk to them.

Step 4: If Possible, Arrange for an Interview
Some colleges allow wait-listed students to do an interview. If you are offered an interview, definitely take it. Try to schedule your meeting with the dean of admissions, and make your case directly.

Interviews can be a good opportunity to show why you are a good fit for the college. It is not necessarily required for you to travel to the school in person for an interview. If your wait-listed college offers you an interview, but the campus is far away, inquire if you might be able to do it through Skype or the phone. You want to show you are interested, but flying across the country is expensive.

Step 5: Radical Alternatives
There are two radical alternatives that you might consider if you are not admitted from the wait list. First, you could go to a community college and then transfer to your wait listed college. The second option is to take a year off—or a “gap year”—and then re-apply next year.

One way to try to attend your wait list college is to go to a local community college and complete the first two years of your degree. You need to make sure that you college accepts transfer students from community college. Also, if you do choose to go to community college, it is imperative that you know exactly which classes you need to take in order to fulfill the transfer requirements.

Another radical alternative is to take a gap year. This is a year off from school in between high school and college. Gap years are very common throughout Europe. In Great Britain, for example, about 11% of the 300,000 college-bound seniors take a gap year before enrolling. An increasing number of American students are participating in them as well, particularly as companies set up gap year programs for students.

About the Author
Dr. Jane E. Dabel is a college professor in Southern California. She also writes the Six Step College Application blog

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