How to write a waitlist letter

Written by natalie smith
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How to write a waitlist letter
Students often become anxious when they hear that they must wait. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Colleges and universities can only accommodate a certain number of students. High-profile schools often get hundreds or even thousands more applications than the number of spots they have available for new students. Typically, the incoming applications are grouped into one of three categories: accept, deny, or waiting list. Giving a student the news that she has been placed on the waiting list is a delicate business; on one hand, it isn't completely bad news, but on the other hand, it isn't what the applicant hoped to hear.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Insert a piece of university letterhead into the printer. This is an official university notification, so you must use the university stationary.

  2. 2

    Type the date, Students who are placed on the waiting list often focus on dates and time in their queries to the admissions department, so omitting the date will prompt a lot of telephone calls. Skip a line.

  3. 3

    Type the student's name and address. If you are writing a number of letters and this is a template for the waiting list letter that all of the students on the waiting list will receive, use the mail merge function in your word processing program to automatically insert the student's name and address. Skip a line.

  4. 4

    Begin the letter by typing "Dear (Name)" followed by a colon. Mail merge can supply the name for you if this is a mass mailing. Skip another line.

  5. 5

    Start by thanking the student for his interest in your university. Explain that there were many qualified applicants, and the admissions department had a very difficult decision to make. After you have softened the blow with these "buffer" statements, tell him that he is on the waiting list for admission.

  6. 6

    Explain very clearly what the waiting list means and what she can expect from this point. For example, she will want to know the approximate date she can expect a final decision, as well as what she can do until then, if anything.

  7. 7

    Thank the student again and reiterate any pertinent contact information for admissions as well as any way she may check the status of her application online. Skip a line.

  8. 8

    Type "Sincerely," and skip three lines. Type your full name and title. Print the letter or letters and sign each above your typed name.

Tips and warnings

  • Focus on the good news. It is an achievement to be on the waiting list if your school is prestigious, so play up the good news rather than focus on the potential for the student to not be admitted into the university.

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