If you decide to write a letter expressing your continued interest in a college, it doesn’t matter much to whom you address it. If you knew the specific admissions officer that read your application, address it to him or her. Examples of this include – having been interviewed by the regional admissions officer, having met that admissions officer when s/he visited your high school, spoken on the phone or exchanged emails. Generally, if you know that the admissions officer knows who you are, address the letter personally. If not, a “Dear [college] Admissions Office[r], ” will work just fine.

Behavior on visits

April 8, 2007

When I worked in admissions, we had a few incidents where admitted students came for a visit and subsequently got in a little trouble. The excitement of being on a college campus, the rush of independence from your parents for a few days, the accessibility of free and plentiful alcohol, the freedom from your high school classes, the validation of a college acceptance coupled with the flattery of a college wooing you often lead to a loss of judgment.

If you visit a college, remember that your behavior is expected to be on par with what the admissions office assumed about you from your application. Get drunk, get arrested, or misbehave and you may find yourself on an early bus back home. Universities do have the right to rescind offers under certain circumstances and, for all of you who received waitlist letters, you know there’s an eager army of students who would happily take the place of someone seen as not valuing the opportunity.

Whatever you do, don’t do anything that would result in a phone call to the dean of admissions in the middle of the night because you’ve been picked up by campus security. Universities tend to frown on that sort of thing.

Getting waitlisted can be frustrating, confusing and/or exciting depending on what your expectations were in applying to that college. It’s frustrating because, similar to being deferred, it’s not a final answer. It’s a “hold on…. lets just wait it out” kind of answer. It may turn into an acceptance. It may turn into a rejection. It’s confusing because you have no idea what your fate will be regarding admittance to that college (and people have all sorts of theories about colleges and their waitlists). It’s exciting because you still may have a chance. These days, when competition has never been more fierce, a waitlist letter, while not an acceptance letter is also not a rejection.

What to do if you receive a waitlist letter? If you are still interested in that school and would attend if removed from the waitlist, you should contact the college asap. This contact should be in writing and it should be brief (one page). What you want to convey is that you remain interested, that [blank] University is your first choice, and that you will matriculate if admitted. Let them know you’re a sure thing (but only if you are). Then write about anything that may be relevant – awards won, leadership positions earned, or other significant accomplishments that, had you earned them prior to submitting your application, you would’ve incoroporated in the original application.

What not to do if you’re waitlisted? Here’s where students go wrong. Do not send daily letters to the admissions office until you’re taking off the waitlist explaining all the trials of life as a waitlisted student and reasons you should be admitted. Do not send gifts. Do not make multiple phone calls. Do not have every alum you know contact the college. Do not visit the college and sit in their reception area until someone agrees to admit you. In general, do not be creepy or annoying.

You may call the office and express your sincere interest in attending the college and ask directly what would be beneficial. The admissions office may have their own ideas of what they need from you but typically, they’ll ask you to write a letter. Bottom line – be respectful of the process and the difficult decisions the admissions officers had to make.

Not getting in

April 2, 2007

If you do not get into a college or university you had your heart set on you have a few choices of how to handle the decision. First, you can accept it, focus on schools that did accept you and move on. Second, you can call the university admissions office and request to speak with an admissions officer to learn why you were not admitted. Third, you can ask your guidance/college counselor to call on your behalf. Often this information is helpful in coming to terms with a rejection. It may also prove valuable if you choose to apply as a transfer student in the future.

For private colleges, requesting a review of your decision isn’t really an option, so don’t call them and ask for one more chance. This is tricky because it implies that they did not do an adequate job the first time around. Most private liberal arts schools take great care in reviewing your application during reading season, and all decisions, once mailed, are final. Some schools (like the City University of New York system) may entertain the possibility of reconsidering an applicant after decisions are made if there is miscommunication or missing materials. I write this purely from one experience where the CUNY office said they did not receive SAT scores and therefore could not admit the student. For selective schools, best not to call or show up and ask them to reconsider. They won’t.