Reading time: 8 mins.
You worked on your application for months: perfecting your essays, crafting your activities list, and getting stellar letters of recommendation. Then, you waited. And waited. In many cases, you waited for months.
The news finally came back: Deferred. Or maybe waitlisted. And, of course, you’re frustrated. And disappointed. Another few months of waiting are ahead.
The good news is that you’re deferred and not rejected. I know it’s hard to see the “good news” in that — but it really is a positive. Colleges and universities schools have become increasingly conscious of offering admission to those they truly think are a good fit and would actually attend if accepted.
Still, for whatever reason, they’re not quite ready to say “Yes” to you just yet, but they’re also not ready to say “No.” They believe you just might be the perfect addition to their campus, but there may be others who are more qualified applicants. They just need more time to decide.
And more time isn’t always a bad thing. Take Georgia Tech, for example. Twenty percent of their first-year students in 2021 had been either deferred or waitlisted. (Remember, however, schools vary widely in the number of deferred and waitlisted students who eventually set foot on their campus.)
So what's next? Is there anything you can do that might tip the scales in your favor?
You might think to immediately write your admission officer a letter, encouraging them to reconsider. And that might not be a bad idea, although I’ll encourage you to leave the begging and pleading out of it.
In many cases, writing a factual, unemotional letter of continued interest (sometimes referred to as a LOCI) might be a great next step. It’s just what it sounds like: An official statement to go into your application file that states you’re still interested in attending their school and highlights new information about you that may help the school make a decision in your favor.
But before you whip out pen and paper (or keyboard and monitor) to write and submit your letter of continued interest, make sure the school accepts them. That means reading your deferral letter or email carefully. Some schools will automatically move you to the regular decision pool, or some may offer you a chance to switch to Early Decision 2 (not all schools offer this). Others require specific action on your part to remain an applicant. Your deferral letter will guide your next steps.
If the school says explicitly not to send a letter of continued interest (or that they simply won’t consider any materials sent outside the formal application), then abide by that. You want this letter to earn you points—not take them away.
If the school does accept some form of continued interest, make sure you know exactly what they expect, when they expect it, and how they expect you to send it. Some schools will accept a simple letter you send directly to the admission officer (which I’ll cover later). Others will have you upload a letter or short statement into your applicant portal. Still others give you a specific (and sometimes required) prompt to respond to and expect a more formal essay submission to demonstrate continuing interest.
Regardless of how you convey your enthusiasm, the goal of writing a letter of continued interest is to show you’re still interested in attending, you're still working hard, and you’ve discovered new reasons why you’d be a good fit.
Note: If you’re not sure whether a school accepts these letters, email your admissions rep and ask for the school’s guidelines and recommendations.
If you get the go-ahead to write a letter of continued interest, start by thinking about your plan of attack. You’ll want to write a relatively short (300-500 words, or about a page), to-the-point letter to the admissions rep that adds new information about you that they can add to your application. They’ve already reviewed (thoroughly) your application, so there’s no need to rehash things you’ve already told them. It should come as no surprise that admissions personnel are overwhelmed right now, so you want to make sure you’re getting right down to business and making it clear:
Let me restate: If you don’t have valid reasons for writing this letter (and writing this letter is optional) — you have no new awards or recognition, no new academic accomplishments, etc. — then you risk wasting your time by writing it and the time of the busy admission officer who has to stop and read it. Not good.
Here’s one way to make sure you are writing a letter of continued interest worth reading.
Note: If you receive specific instructions or guidelines from the school or your admission officer on how to write or structure your letter of continued interest or what content to include that differs from what I cover here, by all means, follow those.
The graphic below shows one way to format your letter to the admission officer, but here’s the lowdown of the order:
Now let’s get to the meat of your letter.
As always, brevity is key. Thank the admissions committee for reviewing your application, and express your gratitude for still being considered for admission. If (and only if) this is your top-choice school, you can say so here.
I can’t emphasize this enough: When writing your letter of continued interest, include only the new changes, achievements, and accomplishments you’ve had since your original application. And it doesn’t need to be a lot of new information or even a big, dramatic accomplishment — even 2-3 updates are sufficient for the purposes of this letter.
Briefly state each update: Explain what accomplishment, knowledge, or insight it shows, and demonstrate how it’s impacted your personal growth or development or improved your fit for the school.
Examples of updates you might include are:
What if you don't believe you have any new information to include? What about mentioning:
Whatever new information you give them, make sure you tie it in with a characteristic, skill, or value you possess so it’s clear the impact you’ll make on campus. These updates should also demonstrate your growth, both as a student and as a young adult.
Reminder: In addition to including these types of updates, you should review the initial decision letter you received from the school to see if they’re asking you to include any specific information.
You should also consider adding a few short sentences about why you’re a perfect fit for the school and what you’re going to bring to (and how you’re going to benefit) the campus.
If you didn’t have the chance to address in previous application materials why school X is your top choice, you can do that here. How? Be specific about the opportunities that are available only at this school (including classes, professors, research and internship opportunities, and clubs and organizations) and how they’ll help you achieve your career and personal goals. Whatever you do, don’t be general — nearly every school has a study abroad program, so saying you’re excited about going to London to study isn’t going to help you stand out.
If you already wrote a “Why Major” or “Why Us” essay for the school, your approach to the letter will be a little different. You’ll want to focus on something different from what you’ve already included in your application. Not sure what to talk about? Consider these approaches:
Of course, you’ll want to personalize this letter to each school and include only relevant information (e.g., if a school is test-blind or you applied test-optional, you don’t need to mention you improved your SAT scores).
When writing your letter of continued interest, what you don’t want to include is anything repetitive or negative—including attitude. Don’t convey your frustration or disappointment at getting deferred, and don’t blame your high school for any perceived shortcomings in academics or extracurriculars. Even if there are some issues with your school or a teacher, you don’t want to come across as someone who will complain about a university, too). Instead, focus on your accomplishments — no matter how small you think they are.
Finally, please, oh please, don’t name drop which schools you’ve gotten into (or which have rejected you). You risk looking overconfident in the former; desperate in the latter.
End your letter with some variation of the following, saying it in the way that only you can:
Remember, schools want to know they’re accepting the students who will succeed and who will attend if offered the opportunity to attend.
Now, do one last proofread of your letter (we don’t want typos), and you’re almost ready to send it off.
There's no need to send your letter immediately (especially if you don't immediately have anything new to add). Be mindful of any deadline dates noted in your deferral letter, and then plan your writing accordingly. Often, you'll have time to wait for your first semester grades to be posted — so you'll have at least that update to give.
Of course, writing a great letter of continued interest is no guarantee that you’ll come off the waiting list or be accepted. But you’ll know you did everything you could. And believe me when I say that you will find a wonderful collegiate home — and they’ll be lucky to have you. Stay focused on your senior year and excited about the opportunities ahead.