Dyad Academy > Offer Selection

Navigating Conditional Offers and Waitlists

In this video you will learn about how to navigate conditional offers and acceptances from admissions offices. By watching this video you will gain insights into:

  • The strategy to get a full offer
  • How Dyad CEO Greg Nance successfully appealed his Conditional Offer at Cambridge
  • What to do and what not to do

How to Decide Between Offer

Congratulations! You've received the offer. What's next? This video will focus on what to consider when choosing between different offers and programs. After watching, you will better understand how to make the best choice for your future success.

I’ve Selected an Offer: What’s Next?

This video will teach you how to best prepare for your studies abroad. You will learn how to make the most out of your experience and how to make your time abroad a valuable learning and life experience. After watching you will know the 3 Smart Steps to prepare for your adventure abroad!

Conditional Offer? Strategies to Earn a Full Acceptance

In this post I provide an overview of the conditional offer and then share my personal story of how I successfully appealed a conditional offer to earn a full acceptance at Cambridge.

What is a conditional offer?

Many British universities will issue an offer of acceptance based on a candidate meeting certain conditions. Common conditional offers include GPA (candidate must earn at least a 3.7 for an unconditional offer), TOEFL (candidate must earn at least a 105), Honors Level (candidate must graduate with highest honors), or Standardized Exam Result (candidate must achieve a score in the 90% for an unconditional offer).

Why do universities issue conditional offers?

The reasons are surely varied but fundamentally conditional offers ensure that each matriculating student meet certain standards that the university deems important, ranging from academic performance to English proficiency. Several universities issue conditional offers to far more students than they have places for because of the difficulty in meeting the standards. It is important to remember that many conditional offers are given without consideration of you or your particular situation.

What can you do if given a conditional offer?

Ideally, you will be able to meet the specified conditions by achieving the grades or exam scores required. But if you are unable to meet the condition, you can appeal the actual conditions.

In December 2010 the University of Cambridge Judge Business School gave me a conditional offer stating that I must achieve a 3.8 cumulative GPA to earn a full offer.  I was disappointed because with only two quarters to go, I could not improve my 3.66 GPA to the necessary level.  My dream of studying at Cambridge now felt impossible. I reached out to my mentor, Professor Charles Lipson (one of my recommendation letter writers) and he instructed me that British universities frequently issue conditional offers to ensure students stay motivated and continue to perform with excellence even after applying. He advised me to appeal the condition of the offer because it was not reasonable considering my academic standing.

I began by mapping out my strategy and decided I needed a couple key tools to sway the admissions office at Cambridge: a concise email to officially appeal the condition; a new recommendation letter to demonstrate my academic abilities; an update on my bachelor’s thesis research and business projects to demonstrate leadership.

Let’s go in reverse order here. I wanted to showcase my analytical and quantitative abilities (two attributes broadly measured by the GPA condition and important for academic success in business school). I decided to provide an early draft of my bachelor’s thesis that demonstrated my ability to perform creative research and communicate complex ideas. I also sent a progress report on Moneythink, the NGO I helped start, which would help show my business acumen and leadership capacity.

I also realized that an additional recommendation letter would be important to showcase my ability to perform academic work at a high level.  Fundamentally, the supplemental recommendation letter should show why you are competent in the particular area where you fall short of the stated condition. If your TOEFL is below standard, then ask your professor or mentor to write a letter recommending your abilities to understand fluently and contribute confidently to English discussions. If your grades are too low (like mine were) ask your professor to comment on your ability to handle the academic rigor and perform creative and critical thinking.

Supplementary material like an essay you’ve written or an updated CV can be very helpful along with an additional recommendation letter. You will also need the official appeal addressed to the admissions office.

The essential tool in turning your conditional offer into a full acceptance is the concise email to officially appeal the condition. It should contain: (1) The condition as currently stated; (2) Why the condition is unreasonable; (3) Your plan to strengthen the particular area; (4) Your continued enthusiasm in contributing to the university.

Finally, it should be addressed to the director of admissions or the admissions officer you’ve previously corresponded with because your candidacy will be well served if an insider is vouching for you and willing to endorse you to her colleagues.

Here is a sample appeal email:

Director Benn Lawson

University of Cambridge

Judge Business School

Office of Admissions

Dear Dr. Lawson

I have been issued a conditional offer based on graduating with a 3.8 cumulative GPA from the University of Chicago. I write today to appeal this condition and believe Cambridge should issue an unconditional offer based on the strength of my candidacy.

After 10 quarters at the University of Chicago I have earned a 3.66 GPA. With only two quarters and six classes remaining, it is statistically impossible for me to reach the 3.8 GPA threshold. Because it is unattainable, I believe the standard is unreasonable.

As you may know, the University of Chicago is a particularly rigorous institution and I have pushed myself each quarter with the most demanding course load.  My analytical and quantitative abilities have significantly improved through the research and writing of my bachelor’s thesis on Sino-American maritime relations. An additional recommendation from my thesis proctor was emailed to you last week. I am including an early draft of my thesis for your reference as well.

I have also successfully pursued numerous extracurricular activities that prepare me for leadership at Cambridge and in the business world.  A full progress report on Moneythink, the NGO I co-founded, is included as an attachment to this email.  I believe my passion for business and insights on entrepreneurship will make me a substantive contributor to the University of Cambridge's academic environment and social culture.

Cambridge is still my top choice and I will attend if granted an unconditional offer.

Sincere thanks for your consideration of this appeal. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Very respectfully,

Greg Nance

A.B., University of Chicago


I know first hand how frustrating and stressful it can be to be stuck with a conditional offer. Luckily, with a smart strategy you can earn a full acceptance. I hope the tactics explained above are able to get you started.

If you’d like a bigger boost, reach out to the ChaseFuture team. Our Admissions Experts have helped many students earn unconditional offers at the UK’s top universities, including LSE, Imperial, Warwick and Cambridge. You can reach ChaseFuture’s Customer Care Team on QQ at 400 886 1636 or say hello on email info@chasefuture.com. Best yet, add me on WeChat and we can speak directly. My User ID is GregNance1.

Together, we can Discover Our Potential.


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO

*ChaseFuture is now Dyad.

Successful Waitlist Strategies

Getting off a university's waitlist is challenging so the right strategy is essential. I have used the following tips to earn admission to UChicago (after being deferred) and to Cambridge (after failing to meet initial standards for admission). I hope these tactics and email template are useful for you too.

A concise email to admissions is vital. Your email should include:

  • You are still interested in attending.
  • How your application has strengthened since initial submission.
  • Specific contributions you can make to the campus community.

Additional considerations:

  • Addressed to Director of Admissions or (even better) the admissions officer you've previously corresponded with.
  • Keep it short. You want your message to be read and to persuade. Long letters are likely to be deleted.
  • Only one or two sentences on why the school is your top choice. No need to waste space on this.

A persuasive recommendation should include:

  • What's changed since your original application.
  • How you have positively shaped your current campus community.

Additional considerations:

  • Better if the letter comes from someone that's supervised you or worked closely with you and can speak on you as a person.
  • Letter should be sent to the Director of Admissions or the admissions officer you've corresponded with previously (and referenced in your email).

Here is a sample waitlist appeal email template to help you get started:

Subject: Note on Jack Sparrow's Waitlist Candidacy

Email Text: University of Cambridge Judge Business School

Office of the Director of Admissions

Dear Dr. Lawson,

I write today to thank you for your continued consideration of my candidacy and to update you on the merits of my application.

Since my original submission in December of 2012, my application has strengthened considerably. I have recently been elected Secretary of the campus investment club, been promoted to Research Assistant in the economics lab and completed an English essay on Chinese monetary policy (please see attached). I have successfully juggled these extra curricular commitments while also earning a 3.7 GPA during the Fall semester.

I believe my passion for business and insights on macroeconomics will make me a real contributor to the University of Cambridge's academic environment and social culture. I look forward to being a leader in the business school economics club and trade simulation project. Cambridge is still my top choice and I will attend if admitted from the waitlist.

Many thanks for your continued consideration.

Very respectfully,

Jack Sparrow

Yale '13

B.A., Yale University 2013


Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going :-)


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO

*ChaseFuture is now Dyad.

What NOT to Do After Being Waitlisted

The following is part of an ongoing series, "Inside the Admissions Office," by mentor Evan Cudworth, a college admissions specialist with experience in the admissions office of the University of Chicago. 

If you find yourself waitlisted at one of your top programs, you’re inevitably going to be flooded with advice and anecdotes about what other students have done to get off the waitlist. Among the sea of stories, you're bound to hear some fascinating ones, such as “Make a music video!” or “Bake them a cake with your name on it!” These strategies might sound compelling, but they backfire MUCH more than they succeed. And, unfortunately, students don't often hear about the times when these strategies backfire, making them liable to copy students that might have actually ruined their chances in an attempt to be edgy. 

Here's the heart of my advice: The most successful students convey their eagerness to attend a program without sounding desperate. I’ve written another article detailing successful strategies (which you can find under the title What to Do After Being Waitlisted), but first here are a few tips on what else NOT to do as a waitlisted student:

1. Don’t cry. You are not a failure! Educational institutions will enlighten you, not define you. It might feel like you are under a lot of pressure to attend a certain school, but if you focus your emotional energies on the positive accomplishments you’ve made so far, and will continue to make in the future, you will find happiness (at the school most appropriate for you).

2. Don’t give up. This is not a final decision. A waitlist offer simply means that the admissions officers or professors believe that you are intelligent and deserving of attending the program, but there are not enough seats available at this time. Maybe they are waiting to see if they can secure additional funding, or perhaps they need to wait to see how many students from a certain geographical location accept their offer of admission. Admissions criteria are more complicated than just student stats and activities. Remember, there are things you can do! And I enumerate them in the second part of this special series within a series: What to Do After Being Waitlisted.

3. Don’t book a flight to visit. Emotions are running high and this might be your first impulse: “If only they can meet me face to face and see how much I care, they’ll have no choice but to admit me!” Quite the opposite. 

Showing up on campus unannounced is not only rude, but can be detrimental to your candidacy. It will be a waste of an expensive trip, and even the best-case scenario will lead to an awkward conversation with an admissions office or officer (if you even get that far).

4. Don’t send a gift. In the US and UK, gift-giving between professionals and strangers is not as common as in some international cultures. Students are discouraged from sending gifts of any kind. If you are waitlisted and you want to make a good impression, sending cookies or other hometown specialties will NOT help you get accepted. One time our admissions office received a gigantic poster collage filled with pictures from all stages of the student’s life, including a somewhat provocative photo of her kissing her boyfriend. Suffice to say, the student was not admitted. Just remember that the best gift you can give an admissions office is a compelling reason why you belong in the program.

In the end, you're going to find a program that is the right fit for you. Use the waitlist as an opportunity to hone your search and reach out to a mentor if you have any questions! And, above all, remember not to focus all your attention on a single school: there are plenty of others that will also be happy to have you!

What to Do After Being Waitlisted

The following is part of an ongoing series, "Inside the Admissions Office," by mentor Evan Cudworth, a college admissions specialist with experience in the admissions office of the University of Chicago.

The waitlist is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the application process. However, it essentially works as a way for universities to fill specific spots in the incoming class after certain students select another program. This means that waitlists are highly difficult to predict. Some years, a program might require more men than women, or more students from a particular part of the world. Don’t try to over-analyze the process and don't take the final decision personally. Instead, focus on your strengths and be polite and respectful throughout the process. For more advice, see the article What NOT To Do After Being Waitlisted.

Below are some tips that will help maximize your opportunities. You'll notice that none are particularly edgy, time-consuming, or difficult. The idea is to show yourself, not a gimmick, and to help the admissions office get updated information on your record respectfully.

1. Seek instructions from the school. The best way to make sure you don't do something that might backfire is to ask the school directly. Each program is different. First, try to find out what your general chances of admission could be. Some schools will publish this data, for others you might have to do some internet sleuthing on admissions forums. Did they accept 10 students or 100 students last year? Is the waiting list ranked? This can help set your expectations. Finally, check to see if they make any requests from waitlisted students. Do they ask for you to interview? Improve your test scores? Don’t be afraid to ASK if this isn't easily available on the website (but always do your research first).

2. Follow up with a detailed email about why you believe you’re a strong fit. For most programs, this will be the desired course of action. This is your chance to prove you’ve done your research. Do NOT mention “prestige” or “location,” but really focus on the specifics of what makes the program unique. Mention professors or former students who have inspired you, or any personal reasons why this program—more than any other to which you’ve applied—is where you want to learn!

3. Keep your grades/activities consistent. Waiting lists are no excuse to start slacking--in fact, your grades and activities matter more than ever. If you can show real improvement in relevant subjects or performance reviews these should be included in your follow up email.

4. Respond to at least one other school that has accepted you before the deadline passes. Don't jeopardize your chances to attend other institutions in an attempt to hold out for one. Most people don’t get into their top choice—and yet they go on to live compelling, successful lives. You will likely be required to pay a non-refundable deposit, but better to pay and lose the deposit somewhere else than sacrifice another acceptance by holding out for good news from a waiting list.

Finally, remember all the positives about the application process, and that no matter where you end up, your hard work will matter more than the program you attend! Good luck!

You did it!

You’ve received your offer and once you decide you know the 3 Smart Steps to best prepare. Waitlists and Conditional Offers can be navigated strategically. Remember the guidance provided in the video:

What Not to Do:

  1. Give up
  2. Reply to Admissions Officers with arrogant responses
  3. Beg for admission

What to Do:

  1. Be calm, be cool, be collected
  2. Express your continued interes
  3. Send updates on recent accomplishments and contributions
  4. Show why you are the perfect fit

When deciding between offers always consider your goals and priorities, zoom in on what it's like to be a student at the university, and look beyond the rankings.

Once you've decided, follow these 3 Smart Steps:

  1. Get started on academic preparation (reading, language, technology tools)
  2. Build connections on campus
  3. Advance your career goals by connecting with professors and alumni

What’s My Next Step?

Well done! You’ve completed all 6 Modules of the Dyad Video Library! You have the insights to get started! Interested in a more customized timeline and program to increase your chances of success? Reach out to work with a Dyad Mentor today!
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