How to Write a Compelling Letter of Continued Interest


How to Write a Compelling Letter of Continued Interest

If you are among the students who received a deferral or got waitlisted at a school on your list, know that there is still time to make a case for yourself! While receiving a "maybe" from your favorite college can feel like a major let down, keep in mind that you have not been rejected, either.

Getting deferred or waitlisted means your application is a strong one, so you do have a chance. Drafting a well-written letter of continued interest that includes the information below will be your last opportunity to show how impressive you are and how badly you want to get in, so give it your best shot!

The Basics

Before you start writing, be sure the school wants any letter at all. Some colleges make it clear that additional letters are not helpful for their review process and will not be read or considered. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill clearly states that sending more materials is not recommended. This year, the University of Michigan emailed all of their deferred students emphasizing that they prefer when candidates only send required materials. In this case, respect the school’s wishes and don’t send a letter. Some universities are dealing with such a high volume of materials that the thought of additional letters from candidates is too much to handle!

That being said, you should certainly advocate for yourself through a letter when the option exists. If your dream school’s portal provides an option to upload your letter of continued interest as an attachment, that is the way to go. If not, you’ll want to email the admissions office directly with your letter attached. If you’re a local student, you could handwrite your letter and mail it for a personalized touch. Only consider this option if you have beautiful, professional handwriting! As you draft your letter of continued interest, if you've been deferred, keep in mind that you should aim to submit this in January. If you've been waitlisted, you should submit this letter before May 1st.

The Format

Try not to exceed one page (single-spaced) in length. Make sure the letter is addressed to the admissions office, or better yet, to the specific admissions officer who oversees your region, if that information is available. Use a formal tone, with a greeting of “Dear Admissions Committee,” followed by a brief introduction that includes your full legal name as well as your Common App ID, date of birth, and the high school you attend.

Start the letter with a positive tone, asserting that, although you were deferred or waitlisted, you hope that your application will be further considered. Do not dwell on your disappointment or other negative emotions, and never try to question the admissions decision! Instead, show how you continue to look forward to the future and the possibility of joining your dream school.

Commit to Attending if Accepted

If the college you are writing to is your absolute top choice and you are dying to get in, be upfront about that feeling. Would you go to this school over all the others? If you were accepted, would you be able to confirm your attendance in a heartbeat? If so, use statements like the following to express the depth and sincerity of your commitment:

  • As my top choice school, I would fully commit to attending [School Name] if accepted.
  • [School Name] has always been my dream school, and if accepted, I would make a commitment to attend by promptly withdrawing all my other applications.
  • I am most passionate about attending [School Name] and can confidently promise to commit if accepted.

Colleges do care about yield when considering deferred or waitlisted candidates, so be forward if this is how you feel. For schools that are not your first choice but perhaps come in at second or third, do not make false promises. Regardless of whether these kinds of statements are tracked by different schools, it is disingenuous to claim that more than one school is your absolute favorite. Say something like “I remain strongly interested in [School Name] and am so excited about having the chance to become a student there,” making your interest loud and clear without explicitly mentioning if you will attend or not. Stay honest in your letter of continued interest!

Reiterate Your Interest 

After your opening paragraph, write a few concise sentences that confirm your passion for the school and your intended major or program, as well as any other unique features that still capture your interest. Be careful not to regurgitate information that you have already provided in your supplemental essays. Reword, rephrase, and start fresh by pointing out something completely new you have discovered based on further school research.

Avoid vague statements that could apply to any college. Instead, be specific about how (and why!) you hope to take advantage of special resources within your area of interest. Emphasize not only what you will gain as a student of this college, but what you have to contribute and what value you foresee bringing to campus. Use this space to concretely show why this school is still your #1.

Provide Meaningful Updates

More so than reiterating your interest, the bulk of your letter should focus on what tangible achievements you have made in your academic life and extracurricular activities since applying. What has changed and how have you further developed or challenged yourself within the past few months? To make it easier on the reader, try splitting these up into bite-size sections with bold or italicized headers such as “Senior Year Grades,” “Senior Year Awards and Honors,” “Personal Programming Project,” or individual school club names like “Mu Alpha Theta Club.” Beneath each heading, use a blocked off paragraph or bullet point list that includes your most impressive updates. Use your best judgement, and keep in mind these items that are always worth mentioning:

  • Maintenance of high grades or a noticeable increase in GPA from the previous semester
  • Going above and beyond with coursework or taking additional credits at the college level
  • Winning selective awards or honors
  • Achieving new leadership positions or more rigorous roles and responsibilities
  • Making significant progress with research or a personal project, such as:
    • Polishing a scientific research paper about X with a college professor and submitting it for publication to a peer-reviewed journal
    • Completing a second workshop teaching HTML/CSS and Java to local youth, garnering interest through Facebook and a self-coded website about computer programming
    • Continuing to run a social media campaign about reducing plastic bottle usage, gaining X new followers on Instagram and interviewing [Speaker Name] to help spread awareness
  • Preparation for, or completed participation in, challenging competitions and events
  • Receipt of higher, more competitive test scores

Note that your updates should be backed up by newly uploaded transcripts or the Mid-Year Report, updated test score reports, letters of recommendation, and other supplementary material, if applicable. This section should be the meat of your letter of continued interest to show that you’re just getting better and better.

Say Thank You

Again, stay positive at the end of the letter, restating your excitement and why the school is a perfect fit for you one more time. Close off with a straightforward statement and show of gratitude: “I am dedicated to [School Name] because of X, Y, and Z, and sincerely thank you for your continued consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.” Your signature should include your name, Common App ID, as well as your high school name and the year of your graduating class.

Before finishing your letter of continued interest, scan it thoroughly for spelling and grammar mistakes. Be confident that your letter shows the ways in which you are now a stronger candidate than ever before, and keep your fingers crossed for future results! We’re rooting for you.

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