To the posters above:
There are two scenarios regarding waiting lists. The department might have a small group of applicants and will reevaluate each case as spots open up. Alternatively, the department may already have a ranked list, but those rankings can be fluid. From my understanding, when dealing with waiting lists, admissions committees will keep in mind 1) how strong the applicant is, and 2) how likely the applicant is to enroll if accepted. They don't want to have to make a dozen offers to fill one recently opened spot. You are able to help your case on both fronts. My advice is to send the department an update packet with the following as soon as possible (priority 2-3 day mail, which is only $4 and will be worth it if you get to go where you want to go):
- A letter explaining how you were disappointed that you were placed on the waiting list but that the school is still your top choice and you are almost positive you would accept an invitation to attend, even if it comes at the last minute or after the April 15 deadline. I emphasize "almost positive" because you don't want to commit to anything in writing and have the department admit you without funding and expect you to come. If you want to cite a few reasons why the department is a good match for you, even if you already mentioned those in your personal statement, I don't see any harm in that. At this point, however, do not mention any specific professors or research groups because those groups may have already accepted as many students as they want or can afford.
- Fall grades (if good or decent) and new transcript
- List of courses currently in progress. Mention it if any of them are at the graduate level.
- Plans for the summer if they are physics related
- Progress on current research (if applicable)
- Remarks about honors thesis (if applicable)
- New publications or conference proceedings
- New presentations, even if simply to your research group or at a university symposium. They show that you are learning how to communicate science with others.
- Descriptions of any new awards or honors you may have received
- Perhaps a revised letter of recommendation from the recommender with whom you are the closest, especially if that recommender has some connection to the university (has colleagues there, graduated from there, etc.). Only submit this letter if the recommender can say something new since last time, such as outstanding performance in a high-level course or new results in lab research.
It's not at all bad form to continue to correspond with the department, especially if you are showing genuine interest and supplementing your application with relevant materials. These applications are not like those from undergraduate admissions when the door closed at the deadline. The applicant pools are smaller, the admissions committees are smaller, and the individuals involved tend to know or know of each other. For example, one of my recommendations came a scientist from another country (I worked abroad in a lab this past summer), and when a professor called me to inform me that I was accepted to his school, he told me that he knew my recommender from Europe.
Last edited by student
on Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.