Common Application

College Waitlist: What to Do to Maximize Your Chances

College Waitlist: What to Do to Maximize Your Chances

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to, so many are put on the waitlist. And this year, COVID-19 might again impact yield, meaning more colleges will need to go to their waitlist to fill the incoming class.

Despite more schools possibly needing to go to the WL, getting admitted from the waitlist is not exactly easy. However, it is possible with some work! Although I do not suggest being overly optimistic, there are 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. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). A few other sites to review:

Before implementing waitlist strategies (below), it is important to deposit at a current top choice school (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 2025” social media 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 it 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 send 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/transcripts 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.

Consider the following strategies in addition:

  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 via Zoom or Skype for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, as those learnings might be good fodder for a WL update.
  2. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on TikTok, Instagram, or other social channels to connect. Don’t forget to open all email correspondence from the school, as schools track opens/clicks as interest.

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 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. The good thing is, you can’t show up on campus now, but take this note as a reminder of the level of inappropriate that is a big no.

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!

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Sunday 3/7: NACAC Virtual College Fair (STEM Focus)

Sunday 3/7: NACAC Virtual College Fair (STEM Focus)

The Common Application is collaborating with the National Association for College Admission Counseling to offer NACAC Virtual College Fairs. 

—Event Info from the CA below:

The NACAC Virtual Colleges Fair for students interested in STEM majors and careers will take place this Sunday, March 7. Registration is free.

These fairs offer students an incredible opportunity to connect with colleges and universities in all 50 states and more than 15 countries. Hundreds of colleges will be available on each fair date to offer Zoom sessions and one-on-one appointments, so students can easily explore their options. 

Students are encouraged to sign up now at virtualcollegefairs.org. They’ll want to start tagging the sessions they want to attend.  

To help get the word out, please visit the counselor resources page for ready-made resources such as social media graphics and sample text. Also available are links to a how-to videotips for STEM students and a PDF list of participating colleges.

As we all look for new ways to explore colleges, NACAC Virtual College Fairs offer an easy and accessible way to connect counselors, students, and families with colleges and universities around the world. We look forward to seeing you online!

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Common Application Essay Spring Break Bootcamp

Common Application Essay Spring Break Bootcamp

Complete Your Common Application Essay in One Week! 

Have some extra time this spring break? Want to get the most important piece of writing in your college application completed efficiently, effectively, and early? 

In one week of focused 1:1 work, you will be able to check a very important college application item off your list: the Common Application essay.  

In this bootcamp you will: 

  • Attend a live session to learn what makes a successful Common Application essay.
  • Complete our specialized brainstorming process, working with an essay expert 1:1 to decide on the most unique approach to your essay. 
  • Draft your essay and receive detailed, targeted feedback to take it from a rough draft to a polished final essay.

You’ll also get access to sample personal statements by real-life students we’ve worked with (and who have gained admission to selective colleges and universities!).

When is this program offered?

  • This bootcamp is offered on-demand in March and April! Let us know your preferred week, and we will reach out to you with our availability. If we are not available for your preferred week, we will work with you to find another time that fits both of our schedules. 

Who should sign up for this program?

  • High school juniors who are ready to write their Common App essay (aka the personal statement) and who have a few hours daily to dedicate to it over the course of one week. This means they have time every day, for seven days, to work on their essay. 

How do I get more information and pricing?

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts – New Prompt Alert!

2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts – New Prompt Alert!

 

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

They will also retain the optional COVID-19 question within the Additional Information section.

The new prompt is inspired by scientific research on gratitude and kindness, specifically the benefits of writing about the positive influence of other people in our lives.

This mindset resonates with Common App President & CEO Jenny Rickard. “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives,” she explains. “And we can do it explicitly.”

In crafting the new option, they relied on the expertise of counselors and admission officers on our Outreach and Application Advisory Committees, along with input from psychology and gratitude researchers. Together, these educators understand the ingredients of a successful essay prompt. The final language they helped to shape balances flexibility with direction. They believe the new choice will generate stories that students are inspired to write and that colleges are excited to read.

An essay prompt can’t erase the loss and anxiety of the last 12 months, but it can validate the importance of gratitude and kindness. The CA hopes students see the new prompt for what it is intended to be: an invitation to bring some joy into their application experience.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022.

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  1. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  1. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  1. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  1. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  1. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  1. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Our Early Admit List!

Our Early Admit List!

Our students rock! We are grateful they chose to have us along for the ride, and this year, an extraordinarily tough year, we are so so proud of the work they put in. Their efforts do not go unnoticed by colleges, either. Although we are believers that the journey is just as sweet as the reward, we are celebrating the reward (acceptances) in this post. 

Below you will find some of the schools our students have been admitted to so far:

Boston College
Boston University
Carnegie Mellon
Coastal Carolina
College of Charleston
Columbia University
Cornell 
Drexel
Duke
Elon
Embry Riddle
Fairfield
Fordham
Georgetown
Georgia Tech
Grand Valley State
Hope College
Indiana University
Knox College
Lehigh
Loyola Marymount (CA)
Miami Ohio
Michigan State
New York University
Northeastern 
Oakland University
Ohio State University
Ole Miss
Pace University
Penn State
Providence College
Rollins College
Southern Methodist University
Temple University
Texas Christian University
Tufts
Tulane
Union
University of Arizona
University of Delaware
University of Georgia
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Richmond
University of South Carolina
University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Texas, Austin
University of Vermont
University of Wisconsin
West Virginia University
William and Mary
Xavier University

…and many more on the way for the class of 2021 (college class of 2025)!

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

 

January Action Plan – By Grade

January Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • If you have RD applications due in mid-January that you did not submit, finish those up ASAP. The same goes for 2/1 deadline apps; there is no reason to wait!
  • The process of applying to college is not over after you press submit, so keep checking those online portals! Some schools require a mid-term grade report as noted on the application instructions (found online). It can be helpful to generate that list and let your school counselor know so it is sent as soon as grades are released. Also, many schools require it even after you have been admitted. 
  • Grades are still important. Even one grade below your “normal” can be cause for concern; we’ve had students receive letters from schools after they had been admitted for a grade that “dipped” too far, threatening their admission could be taken away. Avoid this by maintaining your GPA.
  • If you were deferred, work on your deferral letter this month and aim to send it mid-month.
  • Thank everyone who helped you with your college process (especially your parents!), and take some time to enjoy what is left of high school between now and the rest of your admissions results.

Juniors:

  • Testing. Once you are in prep-mode it is best to just keep going. The sooner you are finished testing, the sooner you can begin to finalize your college list. If you have a preliminary list, February break is a great time to visits colleges. Plan some visits.
  • Confirm your summer plans. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful (and perhaps even fun!) that will help you tell your story to colleges.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.
  • Resolve to check your email daily. Why? Colleges communicate with students via email. Most schools track whether you open emails and if you click through them; more engagement is seen as more interest (schools use interest in the admissions process). Make checking and engaging with any college-related email a habit in 2021.

Sophomores & Freshmen:

  • Are you planning to take SAT subject tests in May or June? If so, come up with a prep plan now.
  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Study hard.
  • Speaking of courses, when do you pick your courses for 11th grade? Keep in mind you want to take a more rigorous course schedule each year.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Work on your resume now.
  • Many 2021 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2021 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.
  • Replace one hour of social media, Netflix, or TV per week with time on Ted ED. Explore what intrigues you! Maybe it’s the history of cheese, particle physics, or what makes a poem a poem. Whatever you find interesting, take some time to be intentional about learning more in the new year!

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Given campus visit restrictions, students are finding it more challenging than ever before to get a sense of what a college is really like. Prospective applicants want (and need!) information they can’t always get online, and that they would often get by sitting in on classes, going on overnight visits, or even meeting with current students on campus through sports teams, affinity groups, or clubs they hope to join if admitted.

Whether students get to campus or not, we know from experience that they can craft smaller, more targeted college lists that reflect a deep knowledge of schools beyond rankings when they talk to current students and young alumni. Talking to peers is also the single best way to learn more about the social aspects of college and what it is like (realistically!) to follow a certain major path.

With that, we’ve launched a new Peer Guide program!

We have a small pool of college students who are available to meet with high school students and help guide them on all things their school, major, and college life in general. Here’s how it works:

Reach out letting us know the specific school or major you want peer guidance on, and we will let you know if guides are available and share their bio(s). *Please note, as we are piloting this program, we might not have a guide available for your college or major of interest; if one becomes available later, we will let you know

-You choose a guide(s) and let us know how much time you want with them (one hour is typically sufficient). Time with the guide is purchased in one-hour blocks, and we ask that you use the time with your guide within three months

-We intro the student and guide, and they take it from there! This is not a formal mentorship program, and students and guides will schedule their time together directly. *Please note, this is a near-peer, student-to-student program. Guides do not meet with or communicate with parents

We have guides from many popular schools including:

  • Michigan
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Tulane
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Harvard
  • GWU
  • Georgetown
  • Cornell
  • Notre Dame
  • Northeastern
  • Wake Forest
  • and more!

Email us if you are interested in learning more!

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Steps for Deferred College Applicants

Every year we work with a handful of deferred students on turning those defers into admits. Reach out to us if you want individualized, 1:1 guidance!

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to via early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer some and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small at many top-top schools) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone! A not so nice practice. Most students who fall into this category should move on and focus on other schools. If you are not sure which category you fall into, reach out to us. 

If you’d like some general guidance on working the deferral, you’ll find it below. But first, a few notes before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision II (“ED II”), and keep moving forward on other apps! Those are much more important now.

2. Consider ED II if you are currently not. Not all schools have ED II; check your Common App to see if ED II is offered at any schools on your list. Why? because….

3. The RD round is tough and this year’s early numbers (at top-top schools where numbers are NOT down) demonstrate it might be even tougher than before; it is smart to get familiar with the ED I and RD numbers and understand why ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart by Jeff Levy and Jeannie Kent. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

4. Don’t make the same mistakes again (or again, and again…). You should be very open to doing a thorough evaluation of what might have gone wrong with your early app(s). With fresh eyes, you might find a few things you would change. Or, with the feedback from someone else, see that you missed the mark. If you’d like an expert evaluation of your deferred app, our “redo report,” contact us.

Other Tips:

–Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor advocate for you (call) and reach out to your regional rep (or whoever their contact is in the admissions office). Make sure updated grades/transcripts are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

-If you applied test-optional, consider taking and/or sending scores. Colleges have always valued competitive scores and this year is likely no different.

–Get an extra letter of recommendation if the school notes you are allowed to send one*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is usually no. And…some schools explicitly state not to send any extras.

–Make contacts locally and talk to students and alumni. Reach out to local alumni chapters 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. Information learned in these meetings are beneficial to include in your deferral letter.

-Connect with your regional rep and consider sending a deferral letter (aka a letter of continued interest). You should have connected with them prior to applying, so this email won’t be out of the blue. Ask if they have any specific advice for deferred candidates. Are reasons for the deferral that you can address in the coming months (grades, test scores or lack thereof, lack of demonstrating interest, or understanding the mission and values of the school)? If you had an interview and established a good relationship with your interviewer, you can also reach out to them to see if they have any tips. A deferral 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 as a way to show your fit for the school, how you will add value, etc. It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a brag sheet. Contact us if you would like some help with your deferral letter.

Secondary Efforts:

-Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your top choice schools on Facebook, Instagram, or other social channels. Most schools also have LinkedIn pages you can follow. These touchpoints likely won’t help significantly, but can’t hurt as a way to demonstrate interest.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Optional Components of the College Application

Optional Components of the College Application

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Videos submissions
  • Letter of recommendation (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to Interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here and here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like CMC, U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? It means you want to go above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are as well as their commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. You are giving yourself the opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know more about you. More of “you” to evaluate, assuming the you that you present is in a good light, is usually a good thing.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Curious as to why so many deferrals and flat out rejections in this year’s early round?

Everyone thought they had a chance at a top-top school this year (what we’ve been calling a bit of COVID Confidence) but many admission offices are not playing the same game as in past years. Fewer legacy favors, a greater emphasis on applicants from diverse backgrounds, and yes, huge surges in app numbers have made it a tough early round.

Best pieces of general advice?

  1. Play your cards right with a smart ED 2 choice and broaden your list for RD — it does not get easier to get in during later rounds!
  2. Avoid making the same mistakes twice: have someone (like us!) provide a ding report so you can fix application errors, improve essays, and submit better apps in RD/ED2.
  3. Don’t stop after you press submit. More on this in a later post…

Stats via IECA listserve compiled by JRA.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*