Spring is finally here and so are the college notification letters.
It used to be that a fat letter suggested a student was accepted to a college. A thin envelope implied rejection. This is no longer true. Colleges and universities are hedging their bets by employing new "enrollment management" options, including extensive use of wait lists, deferred admissions and guaranteed transfer options.
In order to fully appreciate these options one must first understand that colleges have been overwhelmed with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of applications. This is largely the result of a growing number of institutions (460 colleges and universities) accepting the common application, and students submitting many more applications in hopes of getting accepted somewhere.
Colleges are challenged with accurate projections of the number of accepted applicants who will ultimately enroll. To hedge their bets, colleges over accept applicants expecting a certain number to select other institutions. Colleges also offer candidates who did not make the first cut placement on wait lists. Generally these offers are accompanied with a letter of intent. Students who do not reply to the letter of intent will automatically be removed from the wait list.
I strongly encourage students who have been placed on a wait list at a preferred institution to do more than submit the wait list form. This is their last opportunity to demonstrate interest in an institution. They should write a letter or email, addressed to the person who signed their wait list letter, informing them of their strong interest in the college and updating them on any new information. The tone of the letter should be positive and mature. A letter of support from a school counselor or teacher is appropriate, but students should not overwhelm the admissions office with too much information. They should not call daily or visit the admissions office unannounced. They should not attend the accepted students' event. This is a sure way to get crossed off a wait list.