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Deferred or Waitlisted? Write a Great Letter of Continued Interest

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Deferred or Waitlisted? Write a Great Letter of Continued Interest
Brad Schiller
Deferred or Waitlisted? Write a Great Letter of Continued Interest

This is an article for students who pick themselves back up when they fall down. We all fall down. What matters is if we get up again. When it comes to college admissions, here’s how to get back on your feet and write a great letter of continued interest after being waitlisted or deferred from your dream college.

Step 1: Emotions are ok;Step 2: Do things > Write things;Step 3: What is the school asking?;Step 4: Look into your odds (optional);Step 5: Use our simple structure to write a great letter;Finally: Get feedback
Step 1: Emotions are ok;Step 2: Do things > Write things;Step 3: What is the school asking?;Step 4: Look into your odds (optional);Step 5: Use our simple structure to write a great letter;Finally: Get feedback

As college essay coaches, we know that being waitlisted doesn’t make you unworthy — instead, it means the college does think you’re competitive enough to be in their incoming class.

Unfortunately, we’re at the height of a waitlisting wave, with gap-year students taking a big bite out of available incoming class seats, and a surge in applicants.

But a letter of continued interest (or LOCI, for short) is within your control and can be powerful. In addition, because colleges have waitlisted more (way more) applicants than usual, they’ll generally also be admitting more applicants off their waitlist than usual.

(Great news: if you’ve been working with a Prompt essay coach, you can get feedback on your letter of continued interest at no extra charge. Take advantage!)

Step 1: Emotions are ok 

Some basics: You are a human. Humans have emotions. 

While we led with the “pick yourself up” part (you’re probably there already if you’re reading this),  don't forget to give voice to your emotions: you can cry. You can shout. You can sulk. You can rant for a long, long while to any friend who will listen. Give yourself permission to have emotions — even if those emotions lead you to waste some time. 

The college application process is a beast and none of this stuff is easy. 

Step 2: Do things > Write things 

Are you still here? If Step 1 inspired you to hide under your bed for a little while or go have a good cry, no problem. We’ll wait for you to be done!

Now, if you’re ready to get cracking, here’s the crux of it: the best way to increase your chances of getting in is to have new and exciting information to share with the school. 

Those things can include a great final set of grades, so do what you need to do to stay academically focused.

In addition, what did you do since submitting your original application that could make your case now even more compelling? 

  • Is there an activity you’ve taken more initiative in?
  • Is there an interest you’ve learned more about or dived more deeply into? 
  • Is there anything you’ve worked on that could demonstrate any of the 5 traits (ex: drive, intellectual curiosity)?

If you’re on the school paper, did you get a big story published? If you love tech, did you work toward a free, meaningful certificate, maybe in coding or marketing

So many things could make for strong “continued interest” fodder. Make sure you take a moment to account for everything you’ve done (or could still do) since submitting - no matter how small or unusual - as it could be just the thing to mention in your letter. 

Step 3: What is the school asking? 

Colleges are very different when it comes to letters of continued interest. Here’s a very important chart of the common requests they make:

It’s always a good idea to improve your qualifications. But it’s a terrible idea to waste time writing an essay the college doesn’t want. So make sure you know what’s expected. 

Step 4: Look into your odds (optional) 

It’s not possible to know your odds of getting accepted off the waitlist. It’s never possible, actually.

Nevertheless, it’s only human to want to know your chances. (And, as we said in Step 1, being human is okay.)

One place you can look for waitlist data is from the Common Data Set project — bearing in mind that waitlist numbers change from year to year, and have been wildly different than past years before Covid. (You can also Google the school’s name and the word “waitlist” or “deferral” to see if any articles come up - usually from the school’s student paper.)

Step 5: Use our simple structure to write a great letter   

Before you get into an overly literary mode — dreaming up clever metaphors and such for this essay — make sure you know what the college wants to hear.

All of these letters should be straightforwardly written.

How to write a letter of continued interest with updates only

Moreover, some schools explicitly ask for updates only. MIT is an example of a school like that. In that case, your letter should follow this simple structure:

  1. Dear [admission officer name who wrote to you with your decision],
  2. Thank you for allowing me to submit these updates on what I’ve been doing since applying this fall. [Or words to that effect.]
  3. [List of updates.]
  4. Thank you again for your consideration. 
  5. [Your name]

To write strong updates, bear in mind the rules we shared in our Impactful Resume article

  • Focus on the impact you had. (How was the activity different than it would have been had you not been there?)
  • Quantify your achievement whenever you can.
  • Emphasize new traits, skills, or interests you've gained since submitting your original application. 

How to write a letter of continued interest with updates plus a mini "why us"

For most other letters of continued interest, you should still write up all the impressive updates you can. You’ll also want to add a mini “why us” essay — a quick love letter to the school. 

Side note: the “Why Us” essay is all about demonstrating your interest in actually attending (i.e.: your ability to improve the school’s yield numbers). Take a quick look at this article on Demonstrated Interest to understand how colleges evaluate your interest and how much this matters to them. 

Your first paragraph should include:

  • A statement that you remain interested in the school. If it’s true: state that the school is your top choice, and you're excited to enroll if admitted. 
  • [As in the structure above, some variation on this sentence]: Thank you for taking the time to read my letter of continued interest. 

In your second paragraph, lead with what’s most compelling. If you have great updates, put them first. If you don’t really have much to say update-wise, go straight into your mini 'why us" love letter. Here are a few items to consider mentioning: 

  • How your interests and ambitions align with the college's specific opportunities (ex: courses, research opportunities, professors, etc.). Connect your updates to your desire to attend that college, if you can. Show a connection between what you do now and where you want to be in a few months. 
  • They’ll be missing out. Think about what the students at the college will miss out on if you don’t go there. Talk about what you’ll bring to campus life and why you think you’ll be a great classmate and contributor.
  • Your unique contributions. Another way to get at the same material is to think about what you’ll uniquely bring to this campus. What perspective, ideas, or skills do you have that few others do? 
  • Love letter. If you’re contemplating writing yet another essay, you must be in love with this school. Tell them why. Make a list of all the things you’ve loved about the college and why they resonated with you.

Finally: Get feedback 

Last but not least, seek out a second opinion from someone who understands what colleges are looking for in essays. You want to make sure what you’ve written is not only grammatically correct but, more importantly, that it shows off your potential to the fullest extent. 

Brad Schiller
Brad Schiller graduated from MIT with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Management Science with a concentration in Operations Research. He has worked in business consulting with McKinsey, founded two businesses, and written a book. He started Prompt with two fellow MIT people, Jordan and John, to make people better writers. Their premise was simple: give everyone access to on-demand feedback on their writing from subject-knowledgeable Writing Coaches. Years later, Prompt is the largest provider of feedback on admissions essays in the world. Come and join us on our journey by emailing