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Admissions Tip: Waitlists That Discourage Supplemental Information

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We have previously posted some correspondence tips for those applicants who have been waitlisted by schools that welcome supplemental materials and communication.  Today, we’d like to provide some advice to those who are in an arguably more difficult position: waitlisted by schools that discourage further contact with the adcom.

This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines.  In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so.  There may be exceptions to this—for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy—but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules.

While at first it seems as though this leaves little option for waitlisted applicants other than sitting and waiting for a more definitive decision, one of the best things an individual in this position can do is just the opposite—take action and visit the school.  This makes particularly good sense for those who have never been to the campus of their target programs.  Very many things can happen when spending time at the school:

1) You may interact with students or professors who can better inform you of opportunities at the school and give you a better sense of the campus culture.  If you make a particularly strong impression, you might even inspire someone to intercede with the adcom on your behalf.

2) By visiting a school and gaining a feel for the community and setting, you may actually realize that a given program is really not for you.  This will enable you to focus your energy and attention elsewhere and give up your spot on the waitlist to someone who might be a better fit with the program.

3) A school may take note of your visit (if you sign in with the admissions office) and view it as a potential sign of your interest.  All other things being equal, the adcom is generally more likely to admit an applicant if they believe him or her to be likely to accept an offer of admission.

4) You never know when you’ll have that chance meeting with an admissions officer who is willing to give you a little feedback (and who through the process of meeting you face to face might get a better sense of your candidacy).  In fact, if planning a visit, there’s no harm in letting the admissions office know in advance—especially if you have a “waitlist manager” or someone on the admissions team who you’ve corresponded with in the past.  Just send them a polite email indicating that you will be on campus on date X and would love to stop in and introduce yourself, etc.  You’d be surprised at how often an admissions officer ends up being available to speak with you for a few minutes.  Having said that, it’s critical not to force such a meeting or make unreasonable demands on the adcom, so be sure to use your best judgment.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!

For additional valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.