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Tips for Helping a Wait-Listed Student Get Into College

Try to imagine the following student: He or she is extremely bright but doesn't necessarily represent well on paper because his/her level of commitment doesn't read in the test scores or transcript.

You've taught this student once, maybe more, and have developed a rapport with him/her. You know he/she will be successful in college, especially if it's a school of his/her choosing.

But acceptance letters have been sent and you notice that that student is not looking as excited as the rest of his/her peers.

"What's the matter?" you ask.

"I've been wait-listed," he/she says and it's almost as if the wind has been drained from the sails.

There are things that can be done to help this student tip the balance of acceptance into his/her favor, provided he/she is willing to go the distance for the school of choice.

Here are some pointers for helping the student navigate the next steps to create a better chance at a congratulatory email:

  • First of all, defeat hasn't happened yet. A straight-up rejection would have been defeat, so the fact that the student has been wait-listed means that they aren't counted out yet and meet a good deal of the requirements.

  • Tell the student to contact the school directly first by phone to get the number or email of the specific person he or she should contact. The personal touch goes a long way.

  • From there have the student write a letter on his or her own account to further explain any anomalies on the transcript or discuss why the school is right for him or her.

  • Write a recommendation letter for the student, addressing strengths that may not have been highlighted earlier that could sway in the student's favor.

  • When writing the recommendation, try to get a hold of the information that may have been holding the student back and really try to play up something about the student that makes them a good fit for the school.

  • Have the student meet with the school guidance counselor to see if he or she has a personal relationship with admissions of that school and could offer any advice or buzzwords to really propel the student's application.

  • Remind the student to stay positive and not count the school out. Our positive energy can go a long way and dealing with adversity and challenges are one solid way we can see a person's character.

Of course, there are no guarantees where it comes to acceptance into a college, but there are certainly ways to make a student who didn't get in the first round stand out more before final decisions are made. Let's help kids find the successes they are looking for by teaching them to be proactive in their journeys.

How can you help kids better prepare for the college application process to ensure an acceptance on the first try rather than having to deal with being wait-listed? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in April 2016


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