How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest

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The college admissions process can be cruel, especially to those students who find themselves in limbo because they've been deferred or waitlisted. This frustrating status tells you that the school thought you were a strong enough applicant to admit, but you weren't among the first round of top-choice candidates. As a result, you're left waiting to find out what your future might hold.

On the plus side, you haven't been rejected, and you can often take action to improve your chances of eventually being admitted (see How to Get Off a Waitlist).

Your first step when you find that you've been deferred or waitlisted should be to write a letter of continued interest. The tips below can help guide you as you craft your letter.

What to Include in a Letter of Continued Interest

  • Address your letter to the admissions officer assigned to you, or to the Director of Admissions. In most cases, you'll be writing to the person who sent you the waitlist or deferral letter. An opening such as "To Whom it May Concern" is impersonal and will make your letter seem generic.
  • Restate your interest in attending the college, and give a couple specific reasons why you want to attend. Is there a program that excites you? Did you visit the campus and feel the college was a good match? Does the college line up with your professional and personal goals in a specific way?
  • If the college is your first choice school, don't be shy about telling this to the admissions committee. When colleges give offers of admission, they want students to accept those offers. A strong yield makes the school look good and helps the admissions staff meet their enrollment goals efficiently.
  • Let the college know if you have new and significant information to add to your application. Since you originally applied, did you get new and better SAT/ACT scores? Did you win any meaningful awards or honors? Has your GPA gone up?
  • Thank the admissions folks for taking the time to review your application materials.
  • Make sure you include current contact information so that the college can reach you. Waitlist activity can occur in the summer, so make sure the college can contact you even if you are traveling. 

To see what an effective letter might look like, here are a couple sample good letters of continued interest.

What to NOT Include in a Letter of Continued Interest

  • Anger or frustration. You may feel both of these things, but keep your letter positive.
  • Presumption. If you write as if you are assuming you'll get off the waitlist, you are likely to come off as arrogant.
  • Desperation. You won't be improving your chances if you tell the college that you have no other options, or that you'll die if you don't get in. Highlight your continued interest, not your unenviable position on the waitlist.

For an illustration of what not to do, here's a sample weak letter of continued interest.

General Guidelines for a Letter of Continued Interest

  • Make sure the college accepts letters of continued interest. If your waitlist or deferral letter states that you should send no further materials, you should respect the college's wish and show that you know how to follow directions.
  • Send the letter as soon as you learn that you have been deferred or waitlisted. Your promptness helps show your eagerness to attend (demonstrated interest is important!), and some schools start admitting students from their waitlists soon after creating lists.
  • Keep the letter to a single page. It shouldn't ever take more space than that to state your continued interest, and you should be respectful of the busy schedules of the admissions staff.
  • A physical letter isn't always the best option. Read the admissions website to see if the college tends to ask for materials electronically or physically. An old-school paper letter looks nice and is easy to slip into an applicant's physical file, but if a college is handling all application materials electronically, someone will have the inconvenience of scanning your paper letter to include it in your file.
  • Attend to grammar, style, and presentation. If your letter of continued interest looks like it was dashed off in two minutes and written by a third-grader, you'll be hurting your chances, not helping them.

    A Final Word

    Will your letter of continued interest actually improve your chances of getting in? It might. I always advise applicants to be realistic--in most cases, the odds of getting off a waitlist are not in your favor. But when a college does turn to the waitlist, or when the school looks at the general applicant pool in the case of a deferral, demonstrated interest matters. Your letter of continued interest is no magic admission bullet, but it certainly can play a positive role in the process.

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    Grove, Allen. "How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/write-a-letter-of-continued-interest-788882. Grove, Allen. (2017, February 9). How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/write-a-letter-of-continued-interest-788882 Grove, Allen. "How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/write-a-letter-of-continued-interest-788882 (accessed December 12, 2017).