So you’ve been deferred or waitlisted from a school you had your heart set on. Take heart! There’s still something you can do: write a Letter of Continued Interest. Of all the application skills that are taught by guidance counselors and teachers, one of the most overlooked is the Letter of Continued Interest.
We’ve put together a complete and essential guide to letters of continued interest (LOCI) to answer your questions about what to include and what not to include in your letters, including examples of letters to inspire your own.
It’s the way to let a school know that you’re still looking at them as a major first choice, even though you’ve been waitlisted or deferred. And while it is generally written at a time when you have many negative emotions swirling at the hurt of initial rejection and uncertainty going forward, if written correctly it can be a polite and professional way to keep the school updated. Luckily, most of the skills you’ve built writing supplemental essays, personal statements, and thank-you notes to interviewers will all come in handy here. Think of a Letter of Continued Interest as sort of a cross between all of these things.
What is a Letter of Continued Interest?
A Letter of Continued Interest (or, if you’re Notre Dame, a “letter of desire”) is a formal letter to a school that serves as a reassurance that you still want to attend their school, despite being waitlisted or deferred. It’s a good way to remind the school that you still exist, you take initiative, and above all, you’re someone they will want to accept in the next round of admissions or take off the waitlist. Overall, these types of letters are a long shot. That’s important to know up front. But that’s inherent to the situation you now find yourself in, being deferred or waitlisted.
The only thing that a good Letter of Continued Interest can do is help. That is, as long as you don’t write an all-caps letter telling them they were wrong to waitlist or defer you. Just hit the important points, be polite, and end it fast. And, as the Harvard Law School Admissions Office notes, make sure to only include information that will help your candidacy—if your performance has fallen since applying, maybe hold off.
Another important question that comes with Letters of Continued Interest is when exactly to send them. We’d recommend sending them soon after you receive your deferral or waitlist decision. In the case of colleges, keep in mind the peak times that they’re going to be inundated with applications and letters, so if you’re responding to deferral from Early Action it can be a good idea to wait until early January.
What do Colleges Want to Know About Students Who are Waitlisted or Deferred?
Colleges are generally looking for updates on your academic performance, any extracurricular or athletic leadership positions or awards, and other information that might significantly change your applicant profile. If you won the science fair or became captain of your rugby team in the months since you submitted your application, now’s a good time to say so.
Put yourself in your admissions officer’s shoes as you determine what is and isn’t worth mentioning: If you were an admissions officer receiving a letter of continued interest, what sorts of things would you want the applicant to tell you? Following this rule throughout the college process is important, and no less here. Admissions officers, like the rest of us, are subject to biases and snap judgments—it’s up to you to use those to your advantage.
What to Include and Avoid in Your Letter of Continued Interest
Who should I address my letter of continued interest to? What should I include in my letter of continued interest? What should I not include in my letter of continued interest?
These are common questions students have regarding letters of continued interest. Here is some guidance for you to follow as you write and address your letter of continued interest!
Top 3 THINGS
to include in your letter of continued interest
Address it to your regional admissions officer (if you don’t know who this is, ask) instead of the admissions office or the Dean of the college.
A Note of Gratitude
Thank them for taking the time to review your application! It’s important to be gracious, even though you did not receive the acceptance letter you hoped for.
Reasons why you still want to go to this school and why they should still want to accept you
Make sure that you reiterate what it is about this school that makes you write the Letter of Continued Interest. You don’t want to send the same letter to every college that waitlisted you — you want to describe why you’d be a good fit at the particular college you’re writing to. Because it’s a semi-formal part of the admissions process but not the kind of standard thing that everyone sends, it’s crucial to make it personal and unique.
Top 3 THINGS
to avoid adding to your letter of continued interest
Anything that’s not important or necessary for them to re-evaluate
Keep in mind that there’s not that much time, and that admissions officers are going to be swamped with other applications, especially if you applied early and have been deferred. So, you shouldn’t take this as an opportunity to re-write your supplemental essays or write 500 words on another topic. The general rules for what to include in college essays still apply here: don’t include anything inappropriate or overly informal, don’t take this as an opportunity to berate them for making the biggest mistake of their lives in not accepting you. Keep it brief and polite.
Additional letters of recommendation or additional essays
These are unnecessary and will hurt more than help, unless specifically requested by the admissions office. When in doubt, follow the advice of the Yale Admissions Blog, “We do not recommend that you send the admissions office piles of updates after a deferral. You should not try to re-do any parts of your application. You should not inundate your admissions officer with weekly emails and cards.” Goes without saying, you’d think, but often needs to be said.
There might also be a bit of a desire to talk about the aspects of your application that were good, which you can’t believe would earn a deferral or waitlist. This can’t be, you want to say, I got a 1600 on my SAT. Well, as Command Education’s founder Christopher Rim often says, the most elite schools could fill their freshman classes ten times over with people with perfect test scores. It’s about the other things, the less tangible things that might have slipped through the cracks the first time. They deferred or waitlisted you for a reason, your job isn’t to relitigate that, it’s to convince them that there’s more to you.
Outline of a Letter of Continued Interest
Think about your letter of continued interest as broken into four segments: your introduction, the college-specific portion, a personal update and a conclusion.
Introduce yourself, thank the school for reviewing your application, and reiterate your interest in the college. If there are any specific interactions you’ve had with the regional admissions officer that you can mention to establish some sort of personal rapport, now’s the time to do it.
Write about the reasons you have for wanting to attend the college, and why you’d be a good fit. Make sure, as with everything else, to be specific. Every school has a beautiful campus and a fun sports mascot (okay, maybe some schools don’t have the second one—looking at you, schools that have colors as mascots). Not every school has a cutting-edge cancer research department, or a world-class drama program. Find the thing that makes this school so important to you and emphasize it in the letter. After all, that’s why you’re sending it in the first place.
Briefly update them on what they need to know about any changes to your status or viability (if these exist—if not, forget it), or offer to provide them with additional information if they would like. This second part is important. They may want to clarify some piece of your essay or application in the future, and it can be good to keep that door open here. You should also mention those best-fit qualities between you and the school—not only what makes it a good school for you, but you a good student for them.
Thank them again and end the letter by wishing them well. You’ve made your point, so no need to belabor it. Sign your name, and tell them where they can reach you.
Example Letters of Continued Interest
To help you get started, here are some examples / samples of a composite letter of many letters we’ve seen: (Disclaimer: do not copy and paste this letter into an email. You’ve made it this far doing your own work—we hope—so you can use this as a guide but not a template.)
Updated April 2, 2022. Originally published March 27, 2020.