VP Weekly Three: Top Three Questions About the Waitlist

If you find yourself on the waitlist at this point in the application season, we know how frustrating it can be. After months of hard work and waiting for a decision, it’s tough to hear that you have to wait even longer. However, being on the waitlist doesn’t mean that you should just sit on your hands and wait. Most schools offer the opportunity to submit updates while on the waitlist – and those materials will be considered in the schools’ ongoing evaluations of your candidacy. We’ve received a lot of questions about the waitlist over the last month and so we’ve shared our top three along with answers.

1) Will visiting the school improve my chances? Maybe. Will the visit in and of itself win you any brownie points with the adcom? Probably not – lots of applicants visit. Many schools even state outright that visiting campus does not impact their admissions decision. However, what you learn from the visit and how it shapes your reasons for wanting to attend that program could be very relevant to share in an update letter. And that letter could certainly influence the final decision. I worked with a client a few years ago who visited Booth for the first time after he was placed on the waitlist. From that visit, he became much clearer on how the community and values of the school were a fit for him (beyond the professional reasons that he had focused on in his application), and he explained his thinking in an update letter. He ended up getting accepted off the waitlist a few months later. While the school visit alone likely didn’t move the needle for my client, how he leveraged the experience to argue his case probably did.

2) Will it help if an alum/friend/co-worker submits an additional letter of support? It could! We recommend first making sure that the adcom will accept additional letters of support. If they don’t, then you’ll want to be a bit more careful in your approach. But assuming they do, this is a great way to provide some fresh perspective on your candidacy, whether you ask your recommender to address a weakness in your application or you have him/her speak to additional reasons why you’re a great fit for the program. The latter is best written by an alum who knows the school incredibly well and can offer very specific insights than an outsider could not. However, no matter who is writing the letter, try to follow these best practices: firstly, make sure the author knows you really well and can write a very positive, supportive, and detailed letter. You want to key takeaway to be “this is exactly what you’ll miss out on if you don’t admit this candidate”. Secondly, don’t bombard the adcom with letters. I know it’s tempting to call in favors with 20 of your closest friends and colleagues but we don’t recommend going overboard. 1-2 very thoughtful and passionate letters of support will go a lot further than 20 generic ones.

3) What kind of updates should I share with admissions while I’m on the waitlist? To answer this question thoroughly, let’s start with what you shouldn’t share: stories/experiences already included in your application. This isn’t the place to re-hash your essays. An update letter is just that: an update on what has changed with you since you submitted your application (or interviewed, depending on the timing). You should focus on sharing relevant and tangible changes to your candidacy. What those are varies greatly from person-to-person but here are some appropriate topics based on our experience: a promotion / new job, a new project at work with leadership experience/impact, a new GMAT score, completed additional coursework (MBA Math, etc.), additional insights re: “why school x”, recent developments that impact career goals, changes related to extra-curriculars, etc. No matter what topic(s) you choose for your update letter, be sure that you’re succinct (no more than 1 page, really!), direct, and give a clear “so what”.

Best of luck to you!


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