Waitlist tragedies

May 14, 2008

What to do if your student is waitlisted

Hi J.D. the college guy with a college tip if your student has been wait-listed,

What to do if you’re waitlisted or rejected from your top choices…

 Well, this time of year is always an emotional roller-coaster for me.

On the one hand, for the majority of the families I work with, everything goes according to plan….they get in where they’re supposed to, they get the aid they’re supposed to, and everything is great.

But, I also spend a LOT of time dealing with the handful of families where things do NOT go like they’re supposed to….whether they don’t get the right amount of financial aid, or they get waitlisted or rejected altogether. In fact, often the phone calls come back to back in rapid succession, so by the end of the day, I’m completely exhausted emotionally.

So, today, let’s talk about what to do if you’re rejected or deferred (waitlisted).

First off, if you’re rejected, for the most part, that’s going to be a tough one to overcome. But it’s not totally impossible. For instance, just today, we had a student who was flat out rejected from her first choice get admitted. I’ll talk about exactly how to do it in a second. However, the important thing to understand is that she had been rejected from a small, private school that SHOULD have accepted her in the first place.

If she had been rejected from UCLA, which had over 55,000 applications this year for 3,900 freshman slots, we would have told her not to bother.

Waitlisted is a little easier. For some schools, it’s just that….a waiting list until they figure out their ‘yield’, which is a fancy word for ‘how many students are actually coming here in the fall and will we have any room left over’. For other schools, they don’t really mean it, but it sounds politer than a ‘no’.

So, here’s what to do if you’re rejected or waitlisted from your top school.

First, figure out which school you’re most interested in of the schools that HAVE accepted you, so we have a plan B. You might even send in a housing deposit if it’s close to the May 1st deadline, but figure out what you’re going to do if this doesn’t work first.

A word from me: if this doesn’t work, let me tell you what I’ve learned over the years of doing this. You are much better off accepting an offer at your second choice, working your tail off, and transferring in a couple of years than you are attempting to take a year off, even if you do something really cool….like live in Europe or work on a cruise ship. That will not help your chances of getting in the next fall, so you’ll be back at square one. So, if you really want to go to college, go to college. On the other hand, since I tend to contradict myself even in my own thinking, I’ll have a great article for you in a few days about some students who have very successfully taken a year off, and been much better for it.

Anyway, let’s get down to the business of getting you in to your top choice:

Next, you need to make a list of all your accomplishments that have happened since you originally turned in your application to them. What awards have you won? What killer grades have you gotten? What community service projects have you been involved in? What internship have you set up for the summer?

In other words, why should they pick you versus all the other talented students that are applying there? This is NOT the time to be shy! You need to be polite, but frankly, it’s your job to convince them that they should want you. And remember, be as specific as you can….don’t tell them you’ve improved your grades…tell them exactly how much you’ve improved them and exactly what you’ve been up to since you applied.

After that, make a list of all the reasons why you want to attend there. And use the same formula: be as specific as possible about why they are your number one choice. For instance, I just helped a client with a letter like this, and we referenced the fact that an alumnus of theirs had just won his fourth academy award and that, given the chance, we would make them as proud of us (well, the student) as they were of him. It showed we were paying attention.

So, to recap so far, what we’ve basically created is a letter that addresses two subjects: why you are perfect for them, and why they are perfect for you.

Now, once you’ve made an interesting and specific letter that is persuasive about why they should pick you, we’ve got to look up who to address it to. It should be addressed to the Dean of Admissions BY NAME. Meaning, don’t put ‘Dean of Admissions’. That’s as bad as putting ‘To Whom It May Concern’. Go to the trouble of looking up his or her NAME, so it’s addressed to Dr. Jane Doe, Dean of Admissions.

Then, be sure to CC anybody at the college who had helped you or would be interested in seeing you get in the school, like a coach, admissions representative, music teacher, friend of the family that works there, or anybody else you can think of.

OK, are you ready for the best suggestion of all? I swear to you, nobody else knows this.

Send the package via Fed-Ex.

Yep. Not Priority Mail, DHL, UPS or anything else. Fed-Ex ONLY.

Here’s why: the first battle is getting this all seen by somebody, so we’ve got to make sure that it gets to the right people. And NOTHING does that better than a Fed-Ex package. Don’t ask me why, and NO, I don’t own stock in them. But, you can write the best letter ever, but if nobody sees it, it won’t do you a darn bit of good.

Fed-Ex ONLY.

Last point: I often get asked whether you should include a picture of yourself or not. I feel that you should. Here’s why: it personalizes the package. You don’t have to have model looks, either. It just helps them to identify with who you are. And, if you’re going to include a photo, make it of you with your family, your dog, or doing something interesting. Do NOT make it of you with your boyfriend/girlfriend or wearing a sweatshirt from their college. It just doesn’t help your case.

OK, one more point before I sign off: don’t worry if the letter is not perfect. You’re taking a step that most people won’t, so you’ve already set yourself apart. Like John Francis Tighe said ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’

Or like Woody Allen said ‘50% of success is just showing up.’

Or like Ganhdi said…………just kidding, but I think you get the point.

You do NOT need to attempt to use every SAT vocabulary word that you’ve ever learned, or to write prose like Hemingway…you just need to list some honest reasons why they should pick you.

Now, like Larry the Cable Guy says ‘Go get ‘er done’.

Oh yeah, and if you’re reading this and NOT a client of ours, or you haven’t been in to our office yet, you need to get on the phone and call us ASAP! How well your kid does in school, what school they select, what MAJOR they pick, and how well they prepare for that major all will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.

AND, how you choose to pay for all of that, and whether you get any financial aid or not, and paying for it with pre-tax dollars versus post tax dollars will have a huge impact on the rest of YOUR life!

And we are the specialists for dealing with everything related to college, and we know all kinds of neat planning techniques that nobody else seems to know. WHY? Because this is what we do! So, pick up the phone and call us to either schedule an appointment or register for one of our college planning workshops right now or register online for the free workshop. Click on the Free Workshop RSVP button! Now!

See you on the college campus!

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