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 at the bottom of this page). 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:

A College Zoom counselor can walk you step-by-step through articulating your strongest appeal or waitlist letter. In the first meeting, we’ll analyze your original application with you, live and 1-on-1, to answer your questions and identify deficiencies and missed opportunities. Having honed our strategies and methods over the past 13 years, we'll cross-examine you with deep lines of questioning to uncover new and compelling information together. We'll find specific substantiating details and show you how to articulate them. Often, the better information found is larger in volume than what can fit in your letter. Therefore, once everything is laid out, we'll help you prioritize and package your argument in the most compelling way. This first session is sold as a 1.5-hour meeting (costing $525). However, for majors requiring a portfolio, a 1 hour and 45 minute meeting is necessary to include the portfolio review (for a total cost of $612.50).

After meeting #1, you’ll have a finished and detailed outline, so detailed that it'll resemble more of a first draft. Most students who are at least decently confident writers will feel very confident polishing their letter on their own. Students who are not confident writers, or surprisingly, students who are excellent writers yet are prone to overanalyze and get stuck in analysis paralysis, often benefit from a second meeting.

If another meeting to polish is desired, a 1.5 hours is usually appropriate, but the second meeting can vary in length relative to the student's actual need. In this second meeting, our focus is on word-smithing to achieve the maximum impact in the smallest amount of space. For example, we'll aim to help you engineer a statement that contains more detail, and has better flow and potency, than a version 2 to 3 times its length. The focus is on condensing potent arguments with minimal loss of detail, allowing you to squeeze as many wow factors as is effectively possible into your allotted space. Then, we'll polish. When we’re done, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll know that you’re submitting the absolute strongest case you can make.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you. We are committed to keeping your dream alive. Additionally, your letter can be re-used for most other colleges that accept appeals and waitlist letters. It just needs to be adjusted to fit each college's word limit.

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