The 2022 college application process saw an unprecedented increase in the use of waitlists and deferral policies by colleges and universities across the country (you can read more about waitlists and deferrals in our previous blog post). While many college counseling professionals hoped that last year's phenomenon would become a historical outlier, there is a good chance that what we saw in 2022 will become commonplace. After all, most trends in the college application process point towards further compounding factors in the near future:
The Common Application has made applying to multiple colleges more easily accessible than ever. On one hand, that’s a wonderful thing, but on the other hand it means that we’ll likely see more students applying to more colleges each year.
Students and parents, in fear of not having options, are encouraged to apply to as many schools as they can, in hopes of having choices on the table come April. If anything, the 2022 application cycle confirmed many of these fears and had even the most level-headed families wondering if they should have pushed a little harder for one or two more applications.
Colleges and universities have also made several changes that are likely to increase applications, such as the removal of an application fee or the adoption of test-optional or test-blind admission policies. While these changes certainly bring about their own share of good in the education system, they don’t increase the number of beds on-campus.
Perhaps most concerningly, colleges and universities have almost no incentive to discourage these rapidly inflating application numbers. After all, a larger applicant pool gives the school more flexibility in meeting their enrollment targets and more carefully selecting the incoming classes of students. Additionally, a waitlist provides an often much-needed cushion for admission offices, as they will naturally have students from their initial pool of acceptances choose to attend other institutions. Lastly, how could any college or university turn down the appeal of a lower acceptance rate (even if the numbers might be inflated by unqualified on unethically encouraged applications). If the world of higher education and dubiously opaque ranking systems have taught us anything, it’s that a lower acceptance rate equals a better education (spoiler alert: it does not).
So here we are, wishing for a more humane approach to admissions, but fully expecting this trend to worsen over the coming years. What now? Here enters the Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI). The idea of a LOCI has steadily grown in popularity over time and has recently skyrocketed (according to Google’s data). Google shows us the relative popularity of a searched term when normalized for other similar terms. As the below chart indicates, over the past 10 years the term “letter of continued interest” has made gains in popularity, significant gains over the past five years. While we can’t definitely say that the increased use of waitlists has led to LOCI becoming more common in the college admissions vernacular, we can say that the data provides a clear and annually increasing search trend for “letter of continued interest” during the major college decision months of December, January, March, and April.
In lieu of being able to change the entire college admission system, this blog is for students and families looking to better understand how a LOCI could play into their college search process.
Table of Contents:
What is a letter of continued interest?
Traditionally, admissions offices have two choices to make in the admission process: admit or deny. However, there are times when a student might find themselves deferred or on a waitlist. This waitlist serves as a temporary holding area for applicants that were potentially admissible but were ultimately not chosen for admission. At its core, a letter of continued interest is an opportunity for a student to explain why they should be taken off the waitlist and admitted to the school. Some colleges have very specific systems to submit a LOCI while others might not have any formal system at all. We’ll cover all of the specific details of submitting a LOCI in the following sections.
When do I write a letter of continued interest?
As previously mentioned, a letter of continued interest functions as an attempt to change a student’s application status from a waitlist placement to an offer of admission. This means the timeline of when to write a LOCI is fairly easy to pinpoint. In fact, we can make a pretty simple checklist to help out:
Did you finish and submit your application to the school?
Did you get waitlisted at the school?
Do you still want to attend that school?
If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then it might be time to consider a LOCI. Given the standard timeline of college admissions, most students can anticipate writing a LOCI during the second semester of their senior year (typically in January or March).
If you have no desire to attend the school that waitlisted you or you already have preferred alternatives, then I do not recommend writing a LOCI. Instead, it might be more beneficial to remove yourself from the waitlist, close your application, and focus your attention on options that are better fits.
How do I write a letter of continued interest?
The formatting of a LOCI can be a bit tricky depending on the instructions provided by the college or university. Some schools might provide specific prompts and word count limits for you to answer while other schools might have no formal instructions. Regardless of the format, almost every LOCI is comprised of two main ideas:
Demonstrating any new information since you originally submitted your application.
Demonstrating your continued interest in the college or university.
Here are some additional things to keep in mind as you write your LOCI:
Tone: The tone of a letter of continued interest is typically excited, but respectful. I’ve seen many students complain that the LOCI tone can sometimes demean a student or make them feel like they are groveling to an institution. I understand their frustration, but I am also here to let you know that you can be respectful and excited without kissing the metaphorical feet of the admissions office. While the letter might start and end in a more respectful and grateful tone, the center should be full of excitement. This is your moment to really sell the idea that you want to be at their institution and why you should stand a better chance than other students on the same waitlist. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that a LOCI is a persuasive piece of writing. Even if you don’t know how much sway it might hold over the process, you might be surprised by how persuasive a respectful but exciting letter can be.
Format: If the school provides specific instructions for the letter of continued interest, then that’s the format you should follow. Assuming that there are no instructions, I strongly suggest keeping the format of the LOCI short and sweet. Make sure to have an intro, outro, and some brief body paragraphs separated by their subjects.
Talking Points to Include: Since most college applications are submitted in the fall of senior year, there’s a chance that you can use the letter of continued interest to update admission officers on your recent accomplishments.
Have you been taking more rigorous courses?
Has your GPA increased or maintained at a high level?
Have you gotten involved in additional extracurriculars?
Have you assumed any leadership positions in your school or community?
Have you started or continued working on a particularly important hobby or personal project?
All of these updates are helpful to show admission officers that you remain engaged in your academic, extracurricular, and personal life, despite completing the college application process.
Another topic worth considering is if you have had any progress in determining your major or potential career.
Have you worked a new job, taken on new responsibilities, or shadowed a professional in a way that has helped you envision a possible career?
Are you participating in an academic class or extracurricular club that has reinforced or changed your potential major?
If you can provide insight and evidence in your academic or professional growth, that will help reassure an admissions officer that you are actively thinking about who you want to be and what you want to do in their community.
Lastly, it is important to spend some time discussing why you are interested in their school and/or ways you have meaningfully engaged since applying. For many schools, there’s a good chance that they’ve already asked some form of the question, “why do you want to attend our college/university?” Perhaps now more than ever, it is important to understand why you are actually interested in a college and effectively articulate those ideas. After all, this is a persuasive and informative piece of writing to show an admissions office that they should consider removing you or rearranging your position on a waitlist.
Another impactful way to show your continued interest in a college is to keep engaging with the institution in meaningful ways.
Have you visited the campus since you applied?
Have you connected with your admission officer, a professor, or current student? Did you attend an official visit day, or even stay the night?
Have you attended a virtual visit or tour offered by the institution?
Did you participate in a student, alumni, or admissions interview?
From an admissions perspective, one of the greatest indicators of possible enrollment is continued meaningful interactions, especially conducting an official visit.
Letter of Continued Interest Outline/Example
Introduce yourself for identification purposes, briefly explain your reason for writing the letter, and thank the admissions office for their time and consideration. If a college is towards the top of your list or is your “first choice,” it might be worth including in the introduction.
The academic updates should mainly focus on your engagement, improvement, or continued excellence in the academic community. This section could speak to your GPA, course selection, additional courses taken outside of high school, or meaningful engagement in academic clubs/organizations.
Extracurricular updates most often focus on participation in new clubs and activities or achieving a leadership role in a previous extracurricular activity. Although many students will focus on extracurriculars connected to school, don’t be afraid to include additional involvement in independent projects, personal responsibilities, or paid work. What we don’t advise is for students to begin engaging in new activities because they think it “looks good for college applications.” Admission officers can see through that kind of surface level engagement.
Truthfully, this piece of the letter is going to be less common than the other topics. Firstly, it is completely fine to not know what you want to major in or what career you want to pursue professionally. That being said, some students are fortunate enough to discover an academic subject (often through a class or club) or career path (often through a job, internship, or shadowing) that really connects with them. If you fall into this category, make sure to mention it in this section or the previous two sections if relevant.
Some students understand the importance of demonstrated interest in college admissions and actively seek out ways to show their engagement. Unfortunately, many students stop engaging with colleges in meaningful ways after submitting their applications. An important topic for a letter of continued interest is demonstrating that you actually want to be a part of the college or university community. This can range from official visits to interactions with alumni, or even just demonstrating that you’ve done more research since applying. You can read more about how to demonstrate interest before applying, after applying, or even through email tracking with our other blogs.
Like the introduction, this conclusion should be short, sweet, and to the point. Reemphasize your excitement, thank the admissions team for their efforts, and make it clear that you are excited to hear any updates and are more than happy to provide any additional information.
In summary, a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) has the potential to be useful tool for students seeking to move themselves off of a college's waitlist. That being said, it's also important to note that every college and university approaches LOCI in different ways. Some institutions might take a LOCI very seriously and alter their original decision while other institutions might not even look at the letter. Students and families should remember that being deferred or put on a waitlist might not be a denial, but statistically speaking most students never leave a waitlist. If a student is particularly passionate about a school, then they should pursue every ethical avenue to show their interest (even if the odds are statistically stacked against them). If a student isn't passionate about a school, then they should seriously consider prioritizing other non-waitlist options.
With all my support,
Independent College Counselor
Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors