College bound high school seniors are hearing back from schools as we speak. Typically, the decision is either an affirmative or not so affirmative, but every so often, one gets a waitlist note. As someone who works a lot with college bound students with disabilities and also helps people create compelling applications, it is important to note that the wait list is definitely NOT a NO, but it can quickly turn into a no if you bully, bribe or embarrass in front of the admissions committee.
First, let’s start with what not to do. Although I like to emphasize the positive, in this particular case, a negative impression is worse than doing nothing. Again, let me repeat this, a negative impression is WORSE than doing nothing. The last thing you want to be remembered for in a college admissions wait list situation is being:
- A Bully: You are not the boss. They are the boss and the decider of you or your child’s fate. Do not use any sort of intimidation tactics or threaten. To be frank, your chances really diminish with any sort of phone call or overly aggressive behavior. This is not a job interview, a sales opportunity or used car lot. Use discretion with communication.
- A Briber: The university may be named “University of Schellenberg” (that is my last name, but unfortunately no university, yet) but bribing or monetary suggestions are never appropriate. If you are a big money donor to to the university, make a well-placed phone call to donor cultivation or another alumni group to shepherd your application. If you are not a big named donor, even homemade muffins or a banana loaf would be seen as highly inappropriate.
- A Bragger: Keep the communication to a minimum and don’t remind them of how great you are. Remember they think you are pretty great because they put you on the wait list!
- An Embarrasser: Keep the communication to a minimum. You want to be remembered for your class, restraint and grace. Use social media sparingly about this wait list decision. This is not the time to go on rants, post negative pics or go on a rowdy spring break. Remember William Shakespeare said that, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
- Breathe. Ok, well it may be your first choice school but hope is not lost. I have known people who got off the wait list as late as one week before school starts. Get acclimated to the idea that you may not hear for months. In the same breath, you must keep your grades up because they may be requesting them.
- Patience. As we mentioned in the DONTS, the worst thing you can do in many cases is something. Don’t let impatience get the better of you. This is doubly important if you are a parent.
Only contact for the following two reasons:
To restate interest and align yourself with the university. This should only be done once and should be pithy, smart and proofread. This should also be no longer than three reasonably sized paragraphs. An admissions counselor should be able to read it in less than a minute. This email should also express gratitude for wait list status and an offer from you to provide any additional information.
This brings us to the only other reason you should be contacting the admissions office, to provide new and compelling information. Compelling information includes new test scores, great grades, an award or civic honor. Non-compelling information is a video created of how cool you are or anything that would fall into the category of bragger.
If you would like more honed, case-specific wait list strategies, that is one of our specialties. Be sure to contact us. Otherwise, I hope this has been helpful and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Have you ever been admitted off the wait list? What has worked for you?