26 Jan

How to Write a Northwestern Waitlist or Deferral Letter


Convey new and compelling information about your candidacy to differentiate yourself from the rest of the waitlist pool.


The Northwestern Waitlist Process:

Northwestern’s <9% acceptance rate is highly competitive, and if you made it to the waitlist, then your academics likely weren’t the problem. So, a gripping update letter where you substantiate a more compelling fit for the university will likely be what separates you from the rest of the pack and secures your admission.

What to Avoid:

Many students see the update letter as their chance to reiterate their school spirit or highlight their character quirks in an attempt to be unique. Additionally, they’ll reiterate explicit details from their application that they fear admissions officers might have missed, specify aspects of Northwestern that they fell in love with, or spiral into disappointment that they weren’t admitted outright (to demonstrate how much they adore Northwestern). Rather than fall into any of these cliches, your letter should move on from stating your continued interest as quickly as possible and zero in on revealing new and compelling information. Northwestern doesn’t want to hear statistics about themselves, picturesque descriptions of Evanston, or that you're perplexed how someone you know with less deserving grades and/or test scores got admitted.

Select Compelling Information:

Comb through your application, pointing your focus inward and seeking out places where adding additional context to your activities can better substantiate your exceptionalism from the norm. Don’t be so modest as to lose your individual contributions by downplaying them to group successes; contrary to popular belief, schools like Northwestern aren’t as interested in whether your competitive teams had winning records or received accolades. Instead, explain how you went above and beyond as a teammate, collaborator, or student. These descriptions aren’t brags as long as your delivery and tone are appropriate; they’re you indicating what contributions you’ll bring to the Northwestern student community, evidenced by your past behavior.



Share Relevant Updates:

Another component schools like Northwestern value in a waitlist letter is evidence of genuine and unusually creative commitment. Many students participate in extracurricular activities solely to pad their college applications, so after submitting, their involvement plummets. Remaining silent on how you’ve continued to stand out after you submitted your application can imply that you fell prey to senioritis or succumbed to surface-level engagement.

The Details:

Northwestern recommends that you send your letter after April 15th, as that’s when Admissions Officers check back with students to ensure they’re still interested. Address your letter to your Regional Admissions Officer (you can find yours here). There’s no upper word limit, but keep your letter concise and professional because the more that admissions officers glance over a long letter, the more likely they are to skip details you’ve hidden in the middle of your paragraphs.

Contact Us for Help Today:

Our College Zoom Appeals Counselors are available to help you outline and draft your most compelling waitlist letter. We’ve helped scores of students achieve success; utilizing those same strategies, we’ll show you how to pitch your candidacy most effectively. Schedule a meeting now, and we’ll look over your application and assist you in compiling your best case for reconsideration. Meetings are available during the COVID19 crisis.

The first appeal session is sold as a 1.5-hour meeting (costing $525 for the 1.5-hour session as our rate is $350 per hour). By the end of Meeting #1, you’ll have a finished outline. Another 1.5 hours is typically needed for meeting 2, but it can vary in length. After Meeting #2, students who are decent writers will generally have a submit-ready letter. You can also re-use your Northwestern letter for nearly any other college whose waitlist you’re on or whose rejection you want to appeal. Contact us to find out more!

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