Notice to Waitlisted College Students: Don’t Be a Psycho

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Our dear Baltimore Fishbowl readers are an eminently sane, eminently reasonable group. But the college admissions process can turn even the most level-headed person into a maniac, so we thought we’d offer up this word of advice just in case:  If you (or your child) is wait-listed at your college of choice, you want to make sure the school knows you’re interested. But you definitely don’t want to do anything that will make the admissions team describe you as crazy to the New York Times.

Want me to be more specific? Don’t offer free rotator cuff surgery. (Yes, that happened.) Don’t offer to bribe the school with donations. (Happens quite a bit, apparently.) Don’t tell the assistant dean of admissions that you’ll buy him two pizzas every week for a year. (That was at Yale.) And — duh — don’t be like the crazy mom who called up the director of admissions at Union College to yell at her — and then called back two more times in the span of half an hour.

Waitlisted students are in a tricky position. They’re often vying for a depressigly tiny number of spots — at small liberal arts schools and Ivies, sometimes only three people get in off the waitlist; sometimes no one does. And the prospect of further waiting may be enough to drive anyone batty. But don’t lose it (and thus blow your final remaining chance) by doing things that’ll make your dream school move you from its “maybe” list to its “stalker-crazies” one. Perhaps the best way to handle the situation is to follow the school’s guidelines for remaining on the waitlist and sending in additional materials. As in the regular admissions process, it’s important to pay attention to each school’s individual preferences. Some want additional letters of recommendation, while others specifically discourage students from submitting them.

If you feel like you need to take action, do so — but maybe wait a day before sending in the baked goods and hand-knit sweaters in the schools’ colors.  I like these thorough, reasonable tips from the Johns Hopkins admissions team. And perhaps the best advice of all comes from Monica Inzer, dean of admissions at Hamilton College:   “I encourage families to treat a wait list offer a little bit like a lottery ticket — if it comes through and you win, everything’s great, but you don’t plan on it.”



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