Waitlisted: How to Approach First-Choice Letters

So, you’ve been waitlisted at your dream college or university. 

Over the last twenty years at Green Ivy, we’ve seen that there’s still a chance that they will accept you off the waitlist. 

In fact, depending on the school, you might even be able to tilt the odds in your favor by writing a first-choice letter, also known as a letter of continued interest (LOCI). In the University of California (UC) system, individual UCs may allow applicants to submit a “Waitlist Statement.” 

Think of these letters as an opportunity to a) illustrate how and why the college is your top choice and b) provide additional information that did not appear in your original application.

Different universities may have distinct policies and processes around first-choice letters. Make sure to research the specific guidelines posted by the university you intend to write to. 

At Green Ivy, we’ve helped dozens of students write successful first-choice letters. Below, we’ve compiled a list of guidelines and tips for you to consider if you intend to write your own! Note: these tips are for students who have been waitlisted. If you’ve been denied admission to a particular university, check out our post on how to write a solid letter of appeal.

A quality first-choice letter or waitlist statement might include any of the following updates:

  • A new extracurricular experience or award (eg. a tournament win, an internship, an academic honor)
  • An added caretaking responsibility (eg. supporting an injured or sick household member)
  • Any new personal projects or skills (eg. attending language workshops, writing your own music, or creating a portfolio of creative writing)
  • An unforeseen personal or family hardship
  • Any activity that you omitted from your original application that reveals an additional value, strength, or passion.

Note: whatever experiences you choose to include in your first-choice letter, make sure to emphasize what you have learned from them. In other words, don’t just describe your new commitments. Clearly articulate how they have helped you grow as a person.

In addition to detailing any developments in your life, an effective first-choice letter should offer a compelling picture of why a particular institution is your top choice. For schools that track demonstrated interest (a measure of how deeply an applicant cares about a school), writing a first-choice letter can boost your chances of admission. To underscore your commitment, consider the following ideas:

  • Identify campus organizations that you are eager to join
  • Refer to specific classes or professors that have caught your attention
  • If you know the campus geographically, refer to specific spots that you admire
  • Tell the story of how you “fell in love” with the university or college you’re writing to

After you finish drafting your letter, make sure to scan for any language that comes across as too demanding or desperate. Ideally, a first-choice letter should adopt a respectfully confident tone.

Finally, remember to edit. Double-check and triple-check for any grammatical or sentence fluency issues. It can be helpful to ask someone you trust to proofread your draft before you send it off! We wish all of you a hopeful, rejuvenating spring. Please contact us here with any questions, comments, or inquiries!

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