If things didn’t exactly go your way in the increasingly competitive EA/ED round (i.e. you got deferred), you still have options — and only one of them involves simply waiting around with your fingers crossed until March. At Command, we are proponents of a short and sweet letter of continued interest. The point of such a letter is twofold. First, it indicates (ideally to the specific admissions officer who read your application, but we’ll get to that in a second) that you are still very much interested in matriculating at a particular university regardless of what happens with other applications in the RD round. Second, it shows a level of follow-through — while more and more applicants are cluing into the fact that a letter of continued interest is a good idea, it’s still by no means the norm, so you’re by default demonstrating (politely and deferentially!) that you are committed to doing everything in your power to secure a better result in the spring. With all that said, let’s get into some of the particulars of the genre.
1. Find your audience
In order for your letter to have maximum impact, you should, if at all possible, find the name and email address of the regional admissions officer who reviewed your application. (For most schools, admissions committees are divided up by state, meaning that if you live in New Jersey, a New Jersey-specific officer reviewed your file. A particular officer may be responsible for more than one state, but usually, states are not split across multiple officers). Some schools make this information readily available on their admissions web pages, so your first step should be to do a quick search for your school name + the state in which you reside. If a particular school keeps this information front and center, you should pretty easily find the official intel you’re looking for. If not, don’t panic, but you might need to do a little more sleuthing. Once you’ve exhausted a school’s admissions site, try poking around LinkedIn to try to find out who the current admissions officer is for your state/region.
2. Hit the highlights
Once you’ve hit the intelligence jackpot, the next step is to craft the perfect letter. Luckily, this shouldn’t be too difficult, since you should only submit a letter that is no more than one (single-spaced) page in length. Seriously, that’s it — barring rare exceptions, you should NOT submit additional letters of recommendation, research reports, or a copy of your perfect attendance award from the 4th grade. Admissions officers are incredibly busy people this time of year, and you don’t want to add too much to the enormous stacks of papers they have to sift through on a daily basis. At worst, it can come across as inconsiderate, but in any case, an excessively long letter or too many additional documents will probably annoy the very person who can choose to advocate on your behalf in the coming weeks.
Given this, you can’t afford to waste any time or space in your letter. Hit the ground running by thanking your admissions officer for reviewing your file, then cover the following in approximately 2-3 paragraphs:
- A brief description of why you think that particular school is the best fit for you (mentioning academic programs or professors when appropriate)
- A more macro-level exploration of how a particular school is in line with your future plans or values
- What you will bring to the campus community
- An assurance (if true) that you will attend the school next fall, if admitted
- An expression of thanks for the officer’s time and consideration (you should have already thanked them at the beginning of the letter, so this is thank-you number two)
3. Be direct
Now that you’ve prepared your concise, convincing letter, it’s time to put the intel you gathered to use. Provided that you were able to locate your regional admissions officer’s email address, draft an email that includes the letter as an attachment, preferably in PDF. The body of the email itself should be — you guessed it — absolutely no longer than is necessary. A simple introduction (“My name is X, and I applied to X University in the EA/ED round”) followed with a note that you’re attaching a letter of continued interest should suffice.
A miscellaneous tip — try sending the email on a weekday morning, perhaps around 10 AM. Your message is less likely to get hidden underneath the barrage of others that accumulate throughout the rest of the day, and you can realistically assume that your note will get read.