A student decides that they want to stay on a college wait list. Here's what they should do and what they should avoid doing.


• One way to show them you care is respond right away. Write — not e-mail — a letter to the college admissions representative or the director of admissions. Emphasize "fit." Tell them convincingly why their college is a good fit for you, and do your best to stay away from generic reasons such as their great football team or exciting Greek life. Describe what you've been looking for in your college search, identify classes and/or professors that are appealing to you. Research their student activities and reference activities that you participated in during high school that you'd like to continue. Be enthusiastic but not saccharine.

• Include an update on what you've been doing. Tell them about your continued community service involvement with any new details of what's happened since you submitted your application.

• Be honest. If you can authoritatively state that if you are accepted that you will attend that college, then let them know. Remember, many wait-listed students will have made other decisions, and anyone who is willing to commit to attending means less time the office needs to focus on finalizing their freshman class.

• Share your summer plans, but only if they're meaningful.

• Ask your high school guidance counselor to put in a good word for you. Ask if they'd be willing to contact the admissions office on your behalf.

• Consider a visit. It is definitely not necessary, but sharing in your letter that your "recent visit reconfirmed that School X is your first choice" is a powerful statement.


• Go overboard and make your letter three pages long. Be concise and substantive.

• Do crazy things like sending food or silly notes — the classic one is sending a shoe with a note attached that says "Just trying to get my foot in the door!" It's been done before and it doesn't work.

• Obsess. You can be happy at more than one school.