The college admissions process is a roller coaster for everyone. Students spend months, or years, preparing – taking the right classes, taking tests, visiting schools, filling out applications, writing essays, securing recommendations. It’s exhausting and everyone is anxious for the process to conclude.
Many students send their applications for Early Action or Early Decision and hope to have an answer by December. Other students apply through rolling admission or regular admission and hope to know their fate by early spring.
But two specific situations can thrust your student into limbo. If your student has applied to school through Early Action or Early Decision and is deferred, she will need to wait to have her application reviewed with the regular pool of applicants in the spring. If your student applies for regular admission and is wait listed, she will need to wait, sometimes well into the summer, to hear whether there will be a place for her – and this will depend on the response rate from those who have been offered a place through regular admission.
The question for your student becomes – what to do? Some students just wait, fingers crossed, hoping that the result in the next round is better. This is fine, and a certain percentage of students (rather small, unfortunately) do receive regular admission or are accepted off of the wait list. However, some students want to take action. Encourage your student to think about what is – and is not – appropriate.
What does the college suggest?
The first thing that your student should do is carefully read her deferral letter carefully. If the college encourages her to respond or send further information, she has something that she can do. However, some schools specifically state that they do not wish students to submit any further material. If the college says don’t send material – don’t send material. It will not help your student’s chances of being admitted if she does not follow the college’s instructions.
If the admissions office has indicated that they are open to your student sending additional information, the first thing that your student can do is to think about anything new that has happened since she sent her original application. Has she participated in any new projects, performances, or activities? Has she received scholarships? Has she received any new awards or honors?
It is certainly appropriate for your student to send the college new information about significant events. However, your student should not simply rehash the material that she has sent before. The college has her original application materials, recommendations, transcripts. They do not need to have that information restated. Admissions officers read many, many pages of admissions materials and do not appreciate having to read the same material again.
Show them that you care
The second thing that your student can do is to send a letter to the college expressing her continued interest. When colleges re-review deferred applicants or move to their waitlist to admit students, one thing that they may look at is “demonstrated interest.” A student who has continued to stay in contact and continued to express sincere interest, may stand out to an admissions officer. One college counseling website, IvyWise, refers to this as a “letter of enthusiasm.” The term is descriptive and appropriate. Letting the college know that she is still interested and enthusiastic about attending the school is important.
Once again, however, it is important that your student not send information that she has sent previously. Her letter should contain new information, should be a sincere expression of her interest in the school, what she can bring to the school, and why she feels that she is a good fit for the school. This is not the time to let the college know that she feels they have made a mistake or to complain about not being admitted. The letter should inspire the college to want to take a second look at the student’s file because it expresses both enthusiasm for the college and “fit.” It is a letter that advocates the match between the student and the college.
Time for parents to step back
This can be a difficult time for parents as well as for students. The unknown continues. Although it may feel as though there isn’t much that you can do as a parent, your presence and support can be especially important during this time. Help your student think about what she might say in her letter (but make sure you do more listening than talking – the letter needs to be your student’s personal statement). Support your student in feeling that she is doing something proactively, but encourage her to be patient.
Help your student think positively about the schools to which she has been accepted. As proactive and enthusiastic as she is, she may not ultimately be admitted to the school for which she is deferred or waitlisted. It is a difficult position to be in to begin to plan and dream about one school while still holding out hope for another school. Your student may need your listening ear as she explores her feelings.
Your student may be admitted to her first choice of school later, or she may not. It is very likely that your student will have a good and meaningful college experience wherever she attends if she enters with the right attitude. This in-between time may be a good time for you and your student to think together about what ultimately makes a good college experience. Like so many other stages on this journey, this can be a time of positive growth and self-exploration.