Sara Harberson

How to Write the Best Waitlist Follow-up Letter Ever

Dear Waitlisted Student,

Did you know that if you want to increase your chances of admission, you need to do more than just accept your spot on the waitlist? There will be hundreds, possibly thousands, of students who accept a spot on the waitlist.

But waitlists are not ranked. The students who stand out are the ones who go the extra mile and write a personal, powerful, and moving follow-up letter to the college. Here’s how to do it paragraph-by-paragraph:

Paragraph #1
Begin your letter by relating something personal that connects you to the college. For example, if you still remember that feeling you had when you first stepped foot on that campus, share it with all the wonderful details surrounding that moment. Getting a college to see how personally connected you are to them is key. They want to admit students who want them back. So prove it. Your last sentence of the first paragraph should be a clear statement of commitment (if you feel so strongly): “If you admit me off the waitlist, I will proudly enroll.” This last sentence is really important because colleges want signs that if they admit you off the waitlist, there’s a good chance you will come.

Paragraph #2
Review the supplement or college-specific essays/responses you submitted months before. Now, take it to the next level by thinking about why you are still interested in the college. Write down some notes about how your perspective and appreciation for the college has evolved since you originally applied. This will become part of the persuasive argument of why you are a good match. The reasons can build on what you originally wrote, but it needs to be more nuanced, fresher, and more mature. Don’t write the same thing you already wrote in the supplement/application. This paragraph should be specific to the academic program(s) you are interested in. And, if there were no required college-specific essays in the original application you submitted, this is your chance to explain why you applied and why you are still interested.

Paragraph #3
Write about the contribution that you would make on that campus and beyond. Connect the ideas about the academic program(s) you mention in the paragraph before with the extracurricular life you would lead.

Paragraph #4
Provide any updates to the admissions committee that were not reflected in your original application. Keep it simple and only highlight the really impactful achievements or experiences. You don’t want this paragraph to be more of a list rather than part of your narrative.

Paragraph #5
This should be a shorter paragraph (three sentences is perfect) where you reiterate your passion for and commitment to the college in the first sentence. The second sentence should be a line that only you could write – it should represent your core in such a way that no one else could say that about themselves. The final sentence should confirm that you will enroll if admitted.

This follow-up letter should not exceed a page. Check your admissions letter to find out how to submit it. And send this off as soon as you can – ideally by mid-April. 

Good luck,
Sara Harberson


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