What Now? Waitlisted at Ivies, Letters of Continued Interest?

University of Chicago Essay Prompts Stretch Your Mind

Last night’s explosion of Ivy League acceptances left tens of thousands of students and their families a mix of happy, devastated, and in many cases really confused about what to do next if they ended up on waiting lists for coveted colleges. 

Acceptances and rejections are straightforward, but what about these many lists? Is there anything you can or should do to continue to press your case?

The acceptance percentages are startling and have gotten much press attention:

Harvard: 3.4%  Yale 4.6%  Princeton: 3.98%  MIT: 4%  Columbia 3.7% 

When all the top universities decided to make this year test optional, the floodgates opened and thousands of students applied to HYPS (Harvard Yale etc.) whose SAT/ACT scores might have kept them from applying in previous years or who never got to take the tests. Harvard had 57,000 applicants! UC Berkeley had 112,000, up from 88,000 the year before! Colleges across the board reported increases of up to 100% in their applications. To read more about this, CLICK HERE.

Many students applied to a higher number of colleges than they would have otherwise, and as a result, colleges have put many more students than usual on wait lists, in case the students they’ve admitted don’t say YES back in the right numbers. 

Without question, there’s a lot of chaos here and impossible-to-predict outcomes — many more than usual because of the swollen numbers.

There may also be much less movement on certain waiting lists than you might expect. This article from Inside Higher Education about waiting lists is instructive. Wait lists might sound promising, and they do indicate that the student can do the work at these colleges, but there may be little hope of a student actually moving from the list to the dormitory come September. 

Waiting lists are not always first-come-first-serve. They are more complex than that.

Harvard is said to have a list in three parts, Part One the most desirable students, and working its way downward. And they will not tell you where you are on the list. At other universities, if a student with a certain profile does not accept a college’s admission offer, the college may go to the list to find a suitable substitute, not necessarily to the person whose name is highest because they responded first.

Colleges will not know about the waiting lists until May, at the earliest, once students have accepted their offers. If you have accepted another offer and then are invited to Harvard, for instance, the first college will then go to its waiting list. It may take a long time for this cycle’s admissions to resolve.

All of that said, all colleges ask students to declare their interest in remaining on the waiting list or not, and if so, most universities ask students to write a letter of continued interest. NOTE: Some universities do not want a letter, just your latest transcript. The college will spell out what they do and do not want. Do only what they request of you. 

If you’ve been admitted to a college or two that suits you, it might be a good idea to choose the one that you most want to go to and get used to the idea of going there, even if you write a letter or two of continued interest elsewhere.

If you accept College X in May and later get admitted to College Y, you will probably forfeit the deposit you put down in May.

If you think you might want help drafting a letter of continued interest, I am available to help.

Please shoot me an email or phone me — East Coast time zone: