Thursday, April 2, 2009

What, MORE Waiting? Advice for Students in Wait List Hell

No one knows better than a high school senior that college admissions is a Waiting Game. You submit your applications, and you wait. You send your test scores, and you wait. You go on campus visits, and you wait. You muddle through sometimes nerve-wracking interviews...and you wait.

Then, some five to six months after the application hullabaloo is over, your calendar starts to glow with the dates your chosen colleges have promised to deliver admissions decisions. If you're like many nail-biting teens, you sit in front of your computer on those days of reckoning, just waiting (yes, more waiting) for the clock to tick to the exact moment when you can check your application status. Are you accepted? Denied? 

Wait a're wait-listed?

Selective colleges have always maintained wait lists of highly qualified candidates who they'd love to bring to their campuses, but just don't have the space to offer admission. The idea is that some students who are admitted in the first round will ultimately choose to go to other schools, thus potentially opening the door for a wait-listed candidate. Students can and do get into colleges off wait-lists every year. 

What should you do if you find yourself asked (yet again) to wait? First of all, don't just sit there. If you hope to get into a college off their wait list, you need to be proactive. The following steps can help you get off that blasted list, get into the school of your dreams, and finally put an end to the wait.

1) Write a letter to your admissions officer. Make your continued, committed interest to attending their college crystal clear. Be sure they know that if you are taken off the wait list, you will pack your bags and head to their school in the fall. In this letter, also include your third quarter grades (assuming they are at least as good as the grades you submitted in your mid-year report) and information about any other significant activities, awards and accomplishments that they don't yet know about. 

2) Ask your counselor to call the admissions office to inform them of your continued, committed interest in the college and offer to provide any additional information they might like to move your application off the wait list and onto the accepted list. 

3) Ask someone who has not yet written you a letter of recommendation (perhaps a principal, department chair, or coach) to pen a new letter that sings your praises and inspires the admissions office to understand that their campus simply cannot continue to exist without you.

4) If you had an interview, give your interviewer a call or send him/her a brief, enthusiastic, personal note letting him/her know that you very much want to attend his/her campus or alma mater and will absolutely accept if you are made an offer of admission. 

5) Cultivate your other options. Hopefully, some of your wait is already over and you were admitted to one or more colleges you would be happy to attend if you never get off the dream school's wait list. Don't put these schools and their offers of admission on the back burner. Keep exploring what they have to offer, developing a "vision" of yourself on their campuses, and doing the work necessary to make a smart choice should your wait-listed condition become terminal. 

Now, take a deep breath and enjoy the remaining weeks of your final year in high school. Maybe you'll get off that wait list; maybe you won't. Either way, the future will arrive on schedule. Be sure to greet it with a smile. 

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