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Countdown to college: Is it possible to get off the wait list and get in?

By Lee Shulman Bierer, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Education News

Have you been wait-listed by one or more of the colleges to which you applied? Here are six important pieces of advice.

1. Don't wait.

Waiting (i.e., doing nothing) is the one thing you shouldn't do if you have any interest in possibly attending any schools where you've been wait-listed. If you haven't responded to your wait-list schools, do it today or tomorrow. Get in touch with them. Fill out the form they sent that will keep your name on their wait list.

2. Make other plans.

Nobody can count on being admitted from the wait list, even if you're the son or daughter of a faculty member. You need to put down a deposit at one of the schools where you were accepted by May.

3. Consider your options.

Take a look at your options and compare your wait-listed school(s) to the one school where you're depositing. Factor in cost, distance from home and academic fit, and if you would still choose to attend the wait-list school, then keep it on your list and respond. Truth is, when many students complete this exercise, they realize that they'd choose one of the schools where they've already been accepted.

4. Ask yourself the tough question.

Can you honestly say that if accepted to your wait-list school you would attend? Is it your No. 1 choice? If you feel comfortable informing ONE school that it is your first choice and guaranteeing that, if accepted, you would attend, then and only then should you write that in your letter to the admissions office.


5. Bow out if you're certain.

Withdraw from schools where you were accepted if you're positive you won't be attending. Open up the spot. Just as you're eager to get off a wait list at one or two schools, there are students eager to get off the wait list at schools where you've been accepted but won't be attending.

6. Write a letter of continued interest (LOCI).

"LOCI" is now common lingo in college admissions. Write yours and be as factual as possible. Flowery language about how you want to attend because the campus is so beautiful is likely to send your letter to the dumpster. Provide an update on what you've been doing since you applied. Explain how you're handling the coronavirus. If you're making the most of COVID-19 by delivering food, making phone calls to seniors, learning a new language, etc., share it in your letter. Reiterate why you still want to attend. Go back to No. 4 on this list and share your response if appropriate. Don't whine or complain.

Yield at colleges and universities is unpredictable this year. Between the drop in the stock market, COVID-19, international students' fear of coming to the U.S. and an increase in gap year requests, it's reasonable to think that public institutions will be oversubscribed and won't go to their wait lists, and that private schools may find greater flexibility and go deeper than usual into their wait lists.

Lee Shulman Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website College Admissions Strategies.

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