Vlog: You’ve Been Waitlisted. Now What?

May 15, 2017 | by Caroline Diarte Edwards

You’ve been waitlisted at your dream school, but you have offers of acceptance elsewhere. What do you do now?

Our Fortuna experts, Caroline Diarte Edwards (former INSEAD Director of Admissions) and Catherine Tuttle (former Duke Fuqua Associate Director) talk candidly about this scenario in this 7-minute video blog.

Take a few minutes and watch. Or, read a transcript of the conversation below:

Caroline: So, welcome everybody to Fortuna Admissions’ video blog. I’m here with my colleague Catherine Tuttle, who was Associate Director at Duke Fuqua School of Business, in the career management team. We wanted to talk to you today about what you should do if you get waitlisted and you also have offers from one or more other business schools. So, Catherine, I know you’ve worked with some clients in this situation, what are your thoughts on this topic?

Catherine: Well, first of all I want to say that waitlisted does not mean rejected so there is potential, there is reason to be positive. So oftentimes people are very frustrated, especially when it’s their top choice school, but it’s not a ‘no.’ So, the next step is how do we continue to stay top of mind with that school and provide all the information that they need to make an educated decision as they move forward with the admissions process, and hopefully one that works in our favour. So, I have a client right now that is going through that. She is waitlisted at Kellogg, which was her top choice school. She did get into Dartmouth and Duke, so that is a good thing, and it keeps her positive, but we still want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to potentially get an offer from Kellogg. So first, I encouraged her to really make sure that we were clear on the protocol: we want to do everything in line with the way the school wants it, right? And only provide the information that they’re asking for, in the manner that they’re asking for it. So, different schools have different things that they want, and processes. Almost all will want you to accept or reject your place on the waitlist, and then clear. For each school we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. So, in the case of Kellogg, they want to know any updates on your professional experience, they want to know any other schools that you’ve been admitted to and they want to know the deadlines, so they have that information, and then anything else that you’ve done to kind of reiterate that Kellogg is your top choice school. One thing they ask for you to specifically not do is send another formal letter of recommendation, which is often something we would do if we were following up with another school. So when you’re reiterating your interest, obviously we want to highlight anything that has changed within your application. In the case of this client her boss actually left the company so she took on an incredible amount of responsibility since her application was submitted; and oftentimes that was months ago, and things can happen. So let them know what’s happening professionally, what projects have you taken on, what results have come that we didn’t have, any promotions, that type of thing. We also want to reiterate why that’s our top choice school and be as genuine as we can, without being sappy or sounding too discouraged or upset with the decision. Just positively reiterating why it is that it’s their top choice. And finally, I think we can loop back with any students or alumni that we have talked to throughout the process. Even if we can’t submit a formal letter of recommendation in addition to what we’ve already sent. Oftentimes a letter from someone informally who has been or is a part of that community who can speak to, maybe, your fit within the school culture, I think can go a long way. So we want to submit these things, we want to check in, but every three to four weeks, not sending something every week and getting to the point where it might be a hindrance to your application.

Caroline: Yes, I certainly remember my days in the admissions office and candidates who were waitlisted who would get a reputation for being somewhat of an annoyance because they’d be calling their admissions officer nearly every day. So you need to avoid and be careful of getting that reputation, but as you say, keeping on the radar screen and continuing to show your motivation and commitment to the school.

Catherine: Yes, exactly.

Caroline: What are your thoughts on campus visits in the context of being waitlisted?

Catherine: For certain. I mean, if there is a formal campus visit that you can take part of in terms of just showing that you are willing to make that trip, and reconnect with this school. I think that is obviously a great opportunity and sometimes making a personal visit as well on your own. But I wouldn’t ask the admissions office to coordinate that on your behalf. I mean, certainly let them know that you’ve come and perhaps reconnect with students that you’ve already talked to: that might incentivise them to say something on your behalf. But yes, it certainly does show a commitment of time and resources, and it reiterates that that is the school you want to attend.

Caroline: It’s something we often get asked by clients who’ve been waitlisted, and how important is it to visit the campus? And as you say, I think it’s useful, it’s valuable, but they need to be aware that it’s not necessarily going to swing things in their favour because the admissions office is also trying to be careful that they don’t give preference to candidates who’ve visited campus over candidates who have not visited campus. You know, trying to keep the playing field level for everybody. So whilst it’s good to show your motivation and your commitment, and as you say you may be able to connect with someone who would be able to put in a good word for you so that’s certainly not going to do any harm if that happens, it can be helpful. But don’t assume that that’s going to really tip things in your favour. I think the thing that can make a really big difference, you mentioned earlier: you can give an update on additional projects that you’ve taken on, promotions, if you’ve retaken the GMAT and got a higher score, or got some really interesting international experience, or some accomplishment in your extracurriculars. Those are things that are very interesting, for the admissions office to hear about, can actually enhance your profile and might tip things in your favour.

Great, all good stuff! Thank you very much Catherine, and we’ll see what’s happening again soon!

Catherine: It was a pleasure, thank you!

Sign up for a