The College Waiting Game - Two Harvard Graduates Provide Tips on How to Handle Your Wait List Dilemma

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Ivy Advising, an educational service founded by two Harvard graduates, offers tips to students who find themselves on a college's wait list. Using proactive communication strategies can increase a student's chances of getting off the wait list and moving onto the campus of their dreams.

Somewhere between the bona-fide admissions offer and the tragic rejection letter lies the ever curious wait list notification. Stopping one step short of “congratulations,” a wait list “invitation” can be one of the most arduous aspects of the college application process. Yet, for as mentally trying as the wait list status may be, it does indicate—at a very important level—that you have impressed the admissions committee.

While the wait list may not be the most enviable position in which to find yourself, it does signify that the college has found you to be a strong candidate say Mark Palmenter and Maria Garcia, graduates of Harvard University who founded Ivy Advising, an educational counseling service. They note that with so many outstanding students applying to college each year, filling the final spots in any incoming class can prove to be the admission committee’s most daunting task; inevitably, the committee finds itself choosing between equally qualified applicants for a limited number of slots. However, by using the “invitation” to wait as an opportunity to communicate continued interest in the school, you can position yourself to be one of the first to move off the list and onto campus.

Ivy Advising’s Tips to End the Waiting Game

•Don’t Take It Personally: For as much as the wait list may be a disappointment, it does not mean that you have been rejected. If you have been invited to join the wait list at the college of your top choice, accept the invitation and express continued interest in the school. Students do come off the list—make a case for why it should be you.

•Say Thank You: Upon receiving the wait list letter, write one of your own. Send a handwritten thank you card to the members of the admissions committee. Let them know you are thankful for their continued review of your application and that you look forward to hearing from them about the opportunity to attend their school.

•Keep Communicating: By taking proactive steps to keep the committee informed, you express your continued interest in the school. One excellent reason to contact the committee is to communicate additional, significant accolades you receive. If, for example, you win a national competition while on the wait list, send a brief update to the admissions office detailing your accomplishment.

•Schedule a Visit: The admissions committee wants to know that the students to whom it offers admission are those that will actually accept its offer. Therefore, one of the most important actions you can take is to show the admissions office that you are still considering the school as a college option. Schedule a visit to campus. Sit in on a class. Take a guided tour and, strategically, end the day with an impromptu visit to the admissions office. Taking the time to personally visit the school shows that you are serious about your desire to become part of the college community.

•Speak to an Admissions Officer: Perhaps the most direct way to convey your desire to attend the school is to speak to an admissions officer. In what is likely to be a brief conversation, state your appreciation of their consideration and express your continued interest in the school.

Being placed on the college wait list can be a frustrating experience. However, take comfort in the fact that the admissions committee views you as a strong candidate. Given that a college’s wait list is typically not ranked, using these attention-getting strategies can strengthen your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.

Ivy Advising is a college and professional coaching company headquartered in New York. Founded by Harvard graduates Mark Palmenter (BA, MBA) and Maria Garcia (BA), Ivy Advising has helped clients across the country in their college application process. Ivy Advising can be reached on-line at


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Mark Palmenter