Are you wondering how to get off the waitlist? Maybe you’re thinking of writing a letter of continued interest (LOCI), but you don’t know where to start. In this blog, we’ll go over some templates on how to write a LOCI.
So you’ve been waitlisted to your top choice school. Of course, you’ll need to accept the spot on the waitlist. In many cases schools will also include a form for you to give them an update. Some schools will even ask for an update letter for you to send on your own prerogative. But be careful, because other schools may specify that they don’t want any letter at all. Most of the time it won’t hurt you to send correspondence, but if a school explicitly states not to send additional letters, we would only recommend inquiring via email in the case that you have a “game changing” level update. In any case do not stress out too much about perfectly following schools’ unclear policies on such letters– you can always ask questions if you’re unsure and it’s ok to do so!
It’s true that the main purpose of a letter of a continued interest is to update schools on any information you have or accomplishments you’ve made since your initial application. But it’s also a tool you can use to your advantage in other ways. Your letter is a final negotiation-like appeal between you and the school. As a student who accepts a waitlist position, you’re signaling to the school that you have a higher probability of actually attending if admitted, a factor that could help that college’s overall yield, an important number in rankings. And as a university, they’re giving you the chance to share information that might make you a more attractive candidate than previously known. You can also make up for information in your original application that may have hurt you in some way.
First, you need to figure out who to address the letter to, typically, your Regional Admissions Representative. Often this might be a person who previously shared their contact information with you at a local college fair or presentation at your high school. You can also try looking up this information on the school’s admissions website. Note that top 20 universities and other highly selective universities may not publicize this information, and in such cases if an official waitlist update form is not available, we recommend that you contact admissions or just send the letter to the general admissions office email address.
Now that you know who your rep is, you can start writing your letter. You should begin by addressing the Admissions rep (for example, Dear Ms. Alvarez.) Then you can follow up by stating your interest in the program and updates on your accomplishments and activities. You can check out our LOCI templates at the bottom of the blog for more!
Now, what strategies can you use to develop content? Read on!
Naming the Elephant in the Room
One of the most underplayed but valuable tactics in writing a LOCI is addressing the “elephant in the room.” Look back at your application. Do you see why you wouldn’t be admitted? Addressing your weaknesses can help schools look past what might otherwise hold you back.
What is your weakest link? Essays? If you know you did not take as much time to write your essays as you should’ve, that’s something you can apologize for. We’ve even seen someone go from rejected to admitted by writing schools, apologizing for their essays, and sharing a link to a Google document with all new essays. True, this may be against official “rules,” but admissions officers are human beings. Explain what happened, own your mistakes and ask for a bit of forgiveness.
Another elephant in the room may be if you didn’t submit a test score because of test optional. If you’re hiding a score at the 25th percentile, maybe try submitting it now. You’ve got little to lose at this point.
If you realize you didn’t give enough personal context in any of your essays, that could be an elephant in the room as well. If you’re facing challenges in your life that you didn’t mention in any of your essays, you’re missing out on huge opportunities.
Finally, if you have some poor grades, help explain why. Is there a reason? Missing context? If you have extenuating circumstances, make sure colleges know. Of course be careful– disclosing issues such as mental health struggles for example can sometimes cause colleges to worry about your ability to manage a college course load– but if there’s a good excuse or at least explanation, you can help make your case more sympathetic.
Many students feel they are supposed to pretend to be perfect in their applications. While it’s good to focus on the positive and avoid bringing up negative aspects of yourself when possible, if there are issues you can’t hide be sure to address them!
Regardless of what the elephant in the room is, you should call it out, explain it, and confront it in your LOCI if you have the space.
Tell Your Best Stories That Didn’t Fit Before
Sometimes, as you’re writing all of your essays for college applications, you’ll pick out one or two stories that you know are the best. And sometimes, you can’t always fit those stories into every application. If that best essay didn’t make it into the application where you got waitlisted, you may want to find a way to include it in your LOCI. In your letter, let them know you feel there is a part of you that you couldn’t convey on your original application, and then find a way to insert your essay. One of our essay consulting students used this tactic just this year in her “Deferred” LOCI and was admitted regular decision to her REA, top 5 ranked college of choice.
You may not be able to fit in a whole 500-word essay into your letter, but you can write an abridged version that captures its essence in a few sentences. Try to plug it in as a kind of zinger for the person reading your letter.
Remember, if you’re emphasizing a personal quality in your LOCI and don’t have many true “updates” your essay may not feel as much like a template and that’s ok.
Pile on Your Achievements
Including updates and achievements in your LOCI should be your first priority. If any achievements or activities didn’t make it into your original application is often the most persuasive material you have and the first type of information University Admissions Offices are asking for. What’s changed since you first applied? Feel free to talk about any new awards, activities, achievements, or grades.
Why This School?
If you already wrote a specific “Why This School?” essay in your application, then this type of information may not be as important. For certain schools like Stanford or Harvard, the “why” also may be unnecessary (who wouldn’t want to attend there!), but you can still discuss any specific programs or professors at that school that interest you. For schools that use generalized applications that don’t allow for school specific essays, such as the UC schools, the LOCI, if allowed, can be a good opportunity to identify why a particular campus is your best fit.
Generally, you might not want to talk about other schools where you’ve been accepted. However, if you’ve gotten into more competitive school(s), but your waitlisted school is still your top choice, you may be able to insinuate that you have more successful or higher ranked options, but you still really want to go to this institution.
Remember that some colleges are protecting their yield: if your demographic is unlikely to attend, a college might waitlist you as it imagines you’ll be selecting other schools first. For example, a public school student from a southern California high school may be far less likely to attend a private, expensive top 50 ranked school in the Northeast than a student from New Jersey, as the California student is likely to attend a top ranked UC instead. The probability of attendance alone may affect the college’s admissions policies in some way. If you have a particular reason this school is right for you, even if you’re not its “typical” applicant, the school would likely would love to hear why they’re still at the top of your list.
How to Write an Update Letter
An update letter is different from a LOCI in that it’s all business. If a school says “please don’t send letters” on its waitlist form or “no letter is necessary” but you nonetheless have serious updates, it may still merit an email. These schools don’t want to get a bunch of letters, but you must judge whether your updates merit consideration. Will they change the caliber of your application? If yes, we still recommend you try to reach out and ask if you can update your file, and then list your updates. Instead of waxing poetic in paragraph form, this letter should be closer in tone to a resume. You should still try to send this to your Regional Admissions Representative if you can, and otherwise directly to the main admissions office. Sometimes, a school may even allow you to edit your application directly from the portal, i.e. you can login to edit your activities list or grades.
Even if you’ve already sent a LOCI, but then you received a big award that you think might change your admissions calculus, it’s ok to write a very brief email with that simple information.
Most schools will not hold such “update emails” against you, particularly if they are impressively significant.
These templates are meant to help get you started, and are not meant for you to simply copy and paste. Please do not plagiarize, and obviously write what is true, not the fiction we’ve crafted below! In fact, if you feel you are a strong writer, you may benefit from not using a template at all in favor of a more narrative-driven or thematically focused letter. If you want to emphasize how you’re an entrepreneurial change maker, do that! Ignore the template! Though these below can get you started, being original also has its merits!
Dear (name of regional admissions person) (OR) Dear Admissions Committee,
I recently accepted a position on XXXX’s waitlist for undergraduate admission. I am writing today because I want to express my enthusiasm for your program and also update your team on my recent accomplishments and activities.
First, I want to report that I recently (report achievement / activity / award).
Second, I want to share a part of me that I realize wasn’t apparent in my original application. Though I have a handful of structured after school activities I participate in, I also wanted to express that I spend about 10 hours a week caring for my younger siblings. Because my parents are separated and both work, it is my responsibility to ensure my eight year old sister and ten year old brother complete their homework, have dinner to eat, and get to their activities on time. I didn’t originally discuss this in my application, but recognize that this context may be helpful in evaluating my ability to involve myself in other activities outside the classroom.
Second, I want to admit that my original application essays were not as well composed as they should have been. As a high school senior who has had much success in my activities, with grades and with scores so far, I took for granted my probability of admission, focusing on charts reporting common GPAs of admits, and didn’t fully realize the importance of the essays. Furthermore, the week that applications were due my grandparent passed away, which distracted me from spending significant time on my essays. I realize now I should have planned farther ahead, and am not here to make excuses. But I do know that I can do better.I know that you may not consider these as I’m beyond the original deadline, but I have rewritten several of my personal essay responses here (provide weblink).
I recognize that (name of university) offers extremely competitive academics and I realize that my freshman and sophomore year grades on my transcript did not reflect my full potential. I came to a realization my sophomore year after my sister was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Seeing the threat to her and the limits on her time made me more cognizant of my own responsibility to make the most of my opportunities. I want to assure the admissions committee that the upward trend in grades that occurred my junior year has continued this year. I am glad to report my first semester grades were straight A’s. I plan to continue this effort as I enter college.
I also just want to say that (XXXX) has not only been my dream school for several years, but it’s also the best school I know of to pursue (XXXX). Though I’ve been admitted to a different top five ranked university, because XXXX specifically offers XXXXX, I feel it would be the campus where I would fit best. In particular, I want to take advantage of the XXXXX program. Though I’ve been admitted to a few top ten ranked colleges, I would rather attend XXXX, as I feel it’s a community where I would best thrive. I also want to be closer to home given my sister’s current health struggles. Despite having other enticing offers, attending a campus in the Northeast is a better fit for me right now. If admitted from the waitlist I would be glad to accept your offer.
I’m not sure if you’re the right person to send this letter to. If there is anyone else I should contact instead please let me know.
Thanks for your time and consideration!
Update Letter Template.
NOTE: ONLY send a letter of this nature if you have specific updates.
Message title: Update: CHS Service Award Winner
Dear (name of regional admissions person),
I recently accepted a position on (name of university)’s waitlist for undergraduate admission.
I am very excited about the possibility of attending XXXX, and have a few updates/an update for my file.
First, I have recently received an award for (name of award). This award is given annually at a school level to two seniors who exemplify (XXXX).
Next, I founded a new chess club at our school. We meet weekly for about 3 hours and compete among a few local high schools. About 14 members have joined so far.
Finally, I received my first semester grades and am happy to report that my GPA has gone up and I have continued to achieve straight A’s in my areas of interest, math and science. My counselor has forwarded a new transcript as well.
I hope you’ll take these/this update(s) into consideration as you reconsider my application if space becomes available.
I’m not sure if you’re the right person to send these updates to. If there is anyone else I should be emailing or another method I should be using to update my file please let me know.
Please know XXXX is my first choice school and if admitted from the waitlist I would gladly accept your offer of admission.
Thanks for your time!
Update Inquiry Template:
If you’re very concerned about a “no LOCI” policy, you could also field the question in an inquiry letter. This might be a shorter form and more polite means to asking how to update your file.
Dear (name of regional admissions person),
I recently accepted a position on the waitlist for (name of university). I have several updates to (awards, grades, and activities) since my time of application
I would love to share these updates with the admission committee. Are you the proper person to send such information to? Is there a best practice for how to update my file?
Thanks for your help and time,