What are the worst admissions strategies you’ve seen from applicants who were deferred or waitlisted? (Don’t try these!)

When I worked in college admissions, most applicants who were deferred or waitlisted were extremely careful to present themselves as model applicants, updating information when relevant, and promptly and courteously responding to any communications from our office. On the other hand, there were always a few each year who thought they had a brilliant shortcut to the top of the waitlist. Here are five of the most memorable (and least successful) attempts. If you try any of these, or anything remotely similar, you WILL make an impression, but it will not be the impression you want to make. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to reiterate how much you love the college by sending balloons or baked goods.

Bad Idea #5: Balloon Barrage

Send the admissions office a balloon each week with a message in it and a note asking them to pop the balloon to find out why you really, really, really want to go to their college. I hate to burst your balloon, but admissions officers are swamped with work and popping balloons to read hidden messages isn’t how they want to spend their time. Give the balloons to your little sister. She’ll appreciate them.

Bad Idea #4: Phone Follies

Continue to call your admissions officer to ask what your chances are of getting admitted from the waitlist. They don’t know. They’ve told you they don’t know. Calling them regularly will neither win them over nor increase your chances for acceptance.

Bad Idea #3: Tent Tactic

Pitch a tent next to the admissions office and wait for someone to come out and ask what you are doing. This is just creepy. If you thought stalking admissions officers would help, you thought wrong. Save your tent for camping trips.

Bad Idea #2: River of Recommendations

Sending a tsunami of additional recommendations will not win friends in the admissions office—particularly if the recommendations are important people who know your parents, not you. Remember, your parents are not applying for admission. You are. If a recommendation isn’t from someone who knows you well, it doesn’t belong in your file, no matter how important the recommender is.

Bad Idea #1: Face Cookies

And the grand prize winner for the worst admissions strategy ever is . . . Giant Face Cookies!

Yes, it is possible to find a bakery that will make a giant cookie with your face lovingly recreated in icing. No, don’t do it. Please no. This is just wrong on so many levels. Pretty much the very last thing an admissions officer wants to see on their desk is a giant cookie with your face on it, no matter how handsome your Mom tells you you are.


Thank you so very much for all of your help, Wendy. I don’t know what we would have done without you! We truly appreciate your expertise, wisdom and support throughout this journey.