College Rejection or Waitlist? Try Practicing Gratitude

It is already March—time flies when you are applying to college! Although an exciting time for many students and parents, others feel a significant amount of disappointment, anger, and confusion as admissions decisions roll out. Many of these feelings stem from rejections or waitlist responses from our country’s most selective schools, but it does not have to be this way.

I hope students who are at the end of their journey take some time in March to reflect and see the positives—personal growth, self-actualization, maybe even becoming a better writer—in light of waitlists, rejections, or other perceived failures. Just making it through this process—and high school today—is no joke, so I suggest starting there as a place to see how far you have come! The students I work with are so accomplished, every single one of them, and they have a lot to feel proud of daily. Sometimes it just takes a moment or ten of honest reflection to see and internalize all of the good. It also helps to remember that a college rejection is not personal. Your file and profile was rejected, not who you are as a person/human.

It is also critical to keep in mind that where you go to college does not determine your happiness, your success in life, or set your future path in stone. This has been true since before Frank Bruni told us so. What is more important is much more personal—like how hard you work and how you treat others. To me, that is what will take you far in life.

So try practicing gratitude during this time, even though it may feel hard. Lynn Goldberg at Tiny Buddha has some great tips for getting started:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Make gratitude a daily habit. Every day, jot down ten great things that happened to you or that you are grateful for. Keeping your focus on the positive will really make a difference.

2. Practice present moment awareness.

The habit of being fully present and not wishing for something in the future or the past—but just being grateful for what is—can really shift your perspective. Catch yourself when that moment escapes you, and gently remind yourself to come back.

3. Think bigger than yourself.

Become involved in a cause that is important to you. As you become aware of other people who are less fortunate than you, you will start to feel a deeper appreciation for what you do have. Many of us have so much.

4. Share the love with your family and friends.

Cultivate an appreciation for others and let them regularly know that you are grateful for them and for what they do for you—whether it be helping with homework or always inviting you out to do something fun. Focusing on the positive will make people want to keep doing it, and help you realize you should be doing the same.

5. Replace complaints with gratitude.

When you find yourself focusing on what you believe you’re lacking—I wish my car were nicer, I had more money, or I got into a “better” college—replace it with thoughts of what you are thankful for.

To all the college applicants out there who know where they are headed at the end of the summer, this advice applies to you, too. And to everyone else still waiting to hear, still waiting to decide, or who is going to tough it out on the waitlist this spring and into summer, stay positive and remember:

“Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications are not your life.” (JK Rowling)

I will be posting more thoughts from Rowling about “failure” later this month, from one of my favorite tiny books, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.

 

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College Waitlist Tips

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to in regular decision, so many are put on the waitlist. Getting admitted from the waitlist is not easy, but it is possible at some schools. Although I do not suggest being overly optimistic, there are some strategies that have worked for students in the past that I am going to share in this post. Of course, if you want individualized guidance, we can provide it, so please reach out.

First, get familiar with the WL data from past years. How many students are offered spots on the WL? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against rather than sit hopefully in the dark. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). A few other sites to review:

Before getting busy implementing waitlist strategies (below), it is important to deposit at a current top choice school (aka a school where you have been admitted) and get excited about the prospect of attending. Take advantage of admitted student days and other events that connect you with potential future classmates, including joining “Class of 2023” Facebook groups. These forums are often very informative, fun, and can help you take your mind off the waitlist waiting game.

Once you have accepted a spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized yourself with the waitlist data, I suggest considering the strategies below. Not all of them are novel, but without much to lose, why not do all you can so you can look back without any what-ifs?

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. Consider including:
    1. A paragraph or two of “academic” updates. Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take at school X, like those you’d include in a Why School essay, but only do this if you did not submit an essay of this type when you applied, otherwise you are being redundant and that is not well-received.
    2. A paragraph or two of “extracurricular” updates but only if significant and can be connected to how you will add value to the school where you are deferred. This includes school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraph(s), making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake in college can be helpful additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at school X. Being very specific is important.
    3. A paragraph that talks about the additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know school X since you applied. This could include setting up an informational interview with a local alum, a current student, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
    4. A paragraph that reiterates your interest in the school, and that if admitted, you will attend. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter.
  2. Send your waitlist letter to your regional rep (if an option) or upload on your applicant portal. Ask whoever you address it to if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not email updates every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  3. Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy.  Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email if they have time and are willing. Make sure they send updated grades/transcript promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped.
  4. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs (some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs). A teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university could draft this letter. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person knows well you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions (even then why count on someone else?!?). If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
  5. If you did not already, visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class, stay overnight, take advantage of any admissions events/programming, and try to meet with students/faculty in your intended area of study.

Consider the following strategies in addition to the tried and true tips above:

  1. Check if school X has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending.
  2. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on FB, Instagram, Snap or other social channels, or Tweet to them your desire to attend. Don’t forget to open all email correspondence from the school, as some schools track opens/clicks as interest.

I’m often asked if I think doing everything on this list is too much, and I do not. All of these strategies are acceptable forms of demonstrating interest even when combined. Accepting your spot on the WL is a standard, required communication. Sending a waitlist letter, and even a follow-up email after a few weeks (for example, to inform admissions of an award at school, National Merit, a promotion at work, or admission to a selective internship/summer program) is not communication overkill. When a counselor calls a school on your behalf to advocate for you or facilitates the sending of an extra letter of support sent, it’s not viewed as bothersome.

Now… showing up on campus and begging, pleading, showering everyone in the office with gifts, staying for two hours until someone meets with you, or other over the top gimmicks or antics would be looked down upon, so please understand that this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed. Ultimately, you want to look back on being waitlisted and feel like you gave it your best shot!

More questions about the WL? Email us!

 

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College Waitlist Data

The Princeton Review pulled from the Common Data Set for students who began freshman year in the fall of 2017 to create a table highlighting:

  • how many students were offered a spot on the waitlist
  • how many students accepted their spot on the waitlist
  • how many got in from the waitlist and the resulting admit rate from the waitlist

Check it out here. For waitlist tips, read our recent post!

 

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How to Get Off The Waitlist

Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all of the students they’d like to in regular decision. The result? Often, placement on the waitlist. Getting admitted from the waitlist is not easy, but it is possible at some schools.

After accepting a spot on the WL, many students just “sit” there—rarely do students continue to communicate with the school and go above and beyond in showing them they are their number one choice. The “sitting” method makes sense for many students, and especially students at schools that take very few students from the WL. But, for students who want to increase their likelihood of being admitted, “working” the waitlist can do exactly that—work!

Before getting busy implementing waitlist strategies, it is important that students deposit at their current top choice school (so a school where they have been admitted), and get excited about the prospect of attending. They should take advantage of admitted student days and other events that help students connect with their potential future classmates, including joining Class of 2022 Facebook groups. These forums are often very informative and fun and can help students take their minds off their waitlist status.

I also suggest getting familiar with the available waitlist data. How many students are offered spots on the WL? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against rather than sit hopefully in the dark. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). College Kickstart also provides very useful waitlist data from many top institutions and presents it clearly and concisely, typically in tables.

Once a student has accepted their spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized themselves with the waitlist data, I suggest considering the strategies below. Not all of them here are new, but some of my students have tested the ones that are a bit outside of the box, and they work!

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. Consider including:
    1. A paragraph or two of “academic” updates. Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take from the college/university you are writing to, like those you’d include in a Why School essay if you did not submit an essay of this type when you applied.
    2. A paragraph or two of “extracurricular” updates. This includes school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraph(s), making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake at the college/university you are writing to would be nice additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at school X. Being very specific is important.
    3. A paragraph that talks about the additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know school X since you applied. This could include setting up an informational interview with a local alum, a current student, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
    4. A paragraph that reiterates your interest in the school, and that if admitted, you will attend. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter.
  2. Send your waitlist letter to your regional rep. Ask them if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not email them every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  3. Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy.  Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email, too, if they have time and are willing! Make sure they send updated grades/transcript promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped. If your grades have gone down, this will not work in your favor.
  4. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs (some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs). A teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university could draft this letter. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person really knows you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions. If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
  5. If you did not already, visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class, stay overnight, take advantage of any admissions events/programming, and try to meet with students/faculty in your intended area of study.

Consider the following strategies in addition to the tried and true tips above:

  1. Check if the college/university has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending.
  2. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on FB, Instagram, Snap or other social channels, or Tweet to them your desire to attend.

I’m often asked if I think doing everything on this list is too much, and I do not—all of these strategies are acceptable forms of demonstrating interest even when combined. Accepting your spot on the WL is a standard, required communication. Sending a waitlist letter, and even a follow-up email after a few weeks if a student has something additional to add that is worthy of sending (for example, an award at school, National Merit, a promotion at work, or admission to a selective internship/summer program) is not communication overkill. When a counselor calls a school on the student’s behalf to advocate for them or helps them have an extra letter of support sent, it’s not viewed as bothering the school. Even if a student shows up on a campus visit and drops by admissions and says hello, they are not going to get penalized.

Now… showing up and begging, pleading, showering everyone in the office with gifts, staying for two hours until someone will meet with them, or other over the top gimmicks or antics would be looked down upon, so make sure students know this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed. Ultimately, students should look back on being waitlisted and feel like they gave it their best shot!

More questions about the WL? Email us!

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

 

March (College Admissions) Madness

March. Quite the month for many students, parents, and counselors.

Alongside excitement, there is often a good amount of disappointment, frustration, anger, and confusion. Many of these feelings stem from rejections or waitlist responses from our country’s most selective schools. But did you know: there are thousands of colleges in the U.S., and the vast majority of them accept far more applicants than they reject? There are just so many fantastic schools that fly under the radar and not only those on the CTCL list, either. I hope that in the future more students and parents will look beyond the schools with the most significant brand recognition and prestige as they craft their college lists. In fact, they are going to have to if you look at this years admit rates. I think that is a good thing.

In addition to considering other colleges, I also hope students can take some time to reflect back on their college application process and see the positives—personal growth, self-actualization, maybe even becoming a better writer—in light of rejections or other perceived failures.

Just making it through high school today is no joke, so I suggest starting there! The students I work with are so accomplished, every single one of them, and they have a lot to feel proud of every day. Sometimes it just takes some honest reflection to see and internalize all of the good that is already in your life. Second, where you go to college does not determine your happiness, your success in life, or set your future path in stone. This has been true since before Frank Bruni told us so. What is more important is much more personal—like how hard you work and how you treat others. To me, that is what will take you far in life. Third, I suggest practicing gratitude during this time, even though it may feel hard. Gratitude is a skill, so you must practice it. Lynn Goldberg at Tiny Buddha has some great tips for getting started:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Make gratitude a daily habit. Every day, jot down ten great things that happened to you or that you are grateful for. Keeping your focus on the positive will really make a difference.

2. Practice present moment awareness.

The habit of being fully present and not wishing for something in the future or the past—but just being grateful for what is—can really shift your perspective. Catch yourself when that moment escapes you, and gently remind yourself to come back.

3. Think bigger than yourself.

Become involved in a cause that is important to you. As you become aware of other people who are less fortunate than you, you will start to feel a deeper appreciation for what you do have. Many of us have so much.

4. Share the love with your family and friends.

Cultivate an appreciation for others and let them regularly know that you are grateful for them and for what they do for you—whether it be helping with homework or always inviting you out to do something fun. Focusing on the positive will make people want to keep doing it, and help you realize you should be doing the same.

5. Replace complaints with gratitude.

When you find yourself focusing on what you believe you’re lacking—I wish my car were nicer, I had more money, or I got into a “better” college—replace it with thoughts of what you are thankful for.

To all the college applicants out there who know where they are headed at the end of the summer, this advice applies to you, too. And to everyone else still waiting to hear, still waiting to decide, or who is going to tough it out on the WL this spring and into summer, stay positive and remember:

“Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications are not your life.” (JK Rowling)

I will be posting more thoughts from Rowling about “failure” later this month, from one of my favorite tiny books, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

What to do if you’ve been waitlisted

Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all of the students they’d like to in regular decision. The result? Often, placement on the waitlist. Getting admitted from a college waitlist is not easy, but it is possible at some schools.

After accepting a spot on the waitlist, many students just “sit” there—rarely do students continue to communicate with the school and go above and beyond in showing them they are their number one choice. The “sitting” method makes sense for many students, and especially students at schools that take very few students from the waitlist. But, for students who want to increase their likelihood of being admitted, “working” the waitlist can do exactly that—it can work.

Before getting busy implementing waitlist strategies, it is important that students deposit at their current top choice school (so a school where they have been admitted), and get excited about the prospect of attending. They should take advantage of admitted student days and other events that help students connect with their potential future classmates, including joining Class of 2022 Facebook groups. These forums are often very informative and fun and can help students take their minds off their waitlist status.

I also suggest getting familiar with the available college waitlist data. How many students at school X are offered spots on the waitlist? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against rather than sit hopefully in the dark. Look at the Common Data Set first. College Kickstart also provides very useful waitlist data from many top institutions and presents it clearly and concisely, typically in tables.

Once a student has accepted their spot on the waitlist, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized themselves with the waitlist data, I suggest considering the seven strategies I outlined in a recent Grown and Flown article. Not all of them are new, but some of my students have tested the ones that are a bit outside of the box, with success.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

So You’ve Been Waitlisted

waitlistpie1516b

 

Although getting admitted off of the waitlist can and does happen, please keep in mind the number of admits is very low. Some schools waitlist thousands of applicants, only to offer a few hundred spots (or 0, or 20, or 50) in their incoming class.

College Kickstart’s sample of waitlist statistics from 160 private and public institutions paints the following picture:

  • On average, 17 percent of students accepting a place on a waitlist were admitted
  • 58 percent of the schools admitted 10 percent or less of the students accepting a place on the waitlist last year
  • 41 percent of the schools admitted 5 percent or less
  • 12 percent admitted no one

They note there are several factors driving low admit rates, including the size of the waitlist (often very large), and how well a school anticipates its admissions yield—I agree.

So what can you do if you have been deferred or waitlisted?

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. It should also be used to reiterate interest and a commitment to attend if applicable. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter.
  2. Have your guidance counselor call the admissions office and advocate for you. Ask them to back up what they say on the call in an email and ask them to provide additional information that supports your candidacy.
  3. Make sure updated grades/transcript are sent promptly.
  4. Consider one or more of the following:
    1. Visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class, stay overnight, take advantage of any admissions events/programming you may not have during your initial application process.
    2. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent. This letter could be from a teacher, coach or someone else close to you who can speak to what you have to contribute to the university. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no, they are not unless the person really knows you. If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.

Again, getting admitted off of the waitlist can happen, but it is a wise idea to get excited about the schools where you were admitted and focus on choosing which one will be the best place for you to spend the next four years!