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The Definitive Guide to Getting off the Waitlist

Getting on the waitlist sucks!

It sucks for many reasons, but the worst one is that you have to wait, wait, and wait. I HATE waiting. I just want to know that I have an acceptance letter on my hand so that I can start dental school in August.

Well, that’s not how admission committee sees this process. They want you to be miserable between the time you are put on a waitlist and the time a decision is made on your application.

Here are some other reasons waitlist sucks:

a) Going to dental school take some preparation. You need to find a place to live. It’s super hard when you get a call in mid July from the admission committee accepting you to the school and they want you to make a decision within 24 -48 hours. If you make the decision to go, you need to find a place, plan for relocation, say goodbye to your friends etc. By then, many of the good apartments are gone and you are left with more expensive options.

b) It sucks to be not knowing what the heck you are going to be doing next year. If you get rejected, you may take the DAT again or take a few courses to improve your chances next year or get involved in extracurricular activities. But if you’re waitlisted, you don’t know what you need to do. The uncertainty of being waitlisted would kill my soul. Do you apply to a post-bac program as well? It’s hard to come up with a solid strategy.

c) Being on a waitlist means that you are probably not going to get any scholarship or aid. You’d have to take out loans entirely. That’s fine. However, there are deadlines and timelines by when you have to fill out forms for loans. If you are accepted a few days before the school starts, you’d have to figure out the whole loan situation with the school’s financial aid office. The process is not very pretty.

Alright, let me stop ranting about the waitlist process and tell you what you can do get off it.

First of all, being waitlisted is not a bad thing. Admission committee thinks you are potentially a good candidate, but they are unsure about a few things on your application. (I am not intentionally being nice to the admissions committee! It’s the truth.) You are as likely to succeed as any other student at that school.

They have reasons to believe that you’ll be successful at their schools. But, they also have some doubts about you. Now your job is to find out what those doubts are and invalidate them one-by-one.

Having said that, the first thing you should be doing after getting waitlisted at a schools is to send them a Letter of Intent (or Letter of Interest).

So, what is this Letter of Intent?

It’s basically a well-crafted professional email that basically says that you WILL be attending X dental school if you get accepted there.

Here’s what you need to include in that letter:

a) Thank the admissions committee for placing you in the waitlist ( I know its sounds like a silver lining, but that’s what you gotta do)

b) Mention what you have been doing since you submitted the admission last year. Talk about these new developments:

  • Have you joined a new club related to dentistry?
  • Have you taken some post-bac classes?
  • Have you retaken your DAT in case your score wasn’t superb? (or do you plan to retake it in the coming months)
  • Have you shadowed/volunteered at a dental office?
  • Have you started working at a dental office?
  • Are you working on an exciting research project that you can mention?

c) Find out your true weakness: Was it the DAT or your GPA? Or was it the interview?

Specifically target that weakness. Mention that you plan to take the DAT again and do take it and improve your scores.

If it was the interview, figure out what didn’t go very well in the interview. Were you not as articulate as you wanted to be about your extra-curricular activities? Then, mention briefly about your extra-curricular involvement.

d) Talk about one or two students/faculty/or alumni you reached out to and what they said about attending the school

e) Then finish the loop with reiterating your interest in attending the school.


Here’s a sample email:

Dear Admissions Committee,

Thank you for considering my application on NYU College of Dentistry’s waitlist. I feel honored to be still in the running for a place at NYU. In this letter, I’d like to update you on some substantial recent developments in my application that may impact your perception of my candidacy.

Last summer, I established Community Dental Disease Prevention Club at Penn which works toward educating young middle schoolers about oral care and prevention techniques. We hosted 4 sessions, each attended by over 20 students, at 3 Philadelphia public schools. In addition, last November I was elected as the the Vice President of my fraternity, AXP. As the VP, I am responsible for fundraising and creating yearly strategy and budget for our fraternity. 

With regards to my DAT score, I understand that with more practice, I can improve my Biology and PAT scores. So, I decided to retake the DAT on May 21st. Once I retake it, I will submit my unofficial score for your reference.  

Please let me know if there’s anything I can do in the meantime to improve my candidacy. 




Next Steps

Once you sent the email, frequently check back with the school(s). I recommend reaching out to them every 3-4 weeks. Many dental schools start to look at their waitlist after May 15th, because that is the date when you can no longer hold spots at two different dental schools. Some schools don’t want candidates to call them. For those schools, you may be better off sending only the letter of intent.

  • Call the admissions committee as soon as you send your letter of intent and tactfully ask why you are put on a waitlist. If it’s because of lack of extracurricular or your DAT score, you have more control on this process. You can get engaged into a few extracurricular activities as well as retake your DAT .
  • Find a professor or dentist who’d be willing to write you a recommendation letter. This recommendation letter will improve your chances in getting in.

If you follow the steps, I am sure you’ll better off than 95% of the waitlist candidates. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to consult with me at









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