Advice for Students on the Waitlist
Background If you are not the parent of a graduating senior and haven’t heard the term “waitlist”, let me explain. Students who applied for admission on time should receive a decision from each school by April 1 of their senior year. Most decisions are either acceptances or rejections, but some students may be offered a place on the waitlist. A waitlist allows the college to better manage the size of its entering class. If fewer students than expected accept offers of admission, the school, seeking to enroll a certain number of students, can offer admission to someone from the wait list.
Steps for Waitlisted StudentsIf you find yourself on the waitlist for one of your top schools there are things you need to do NOW. Here is my advice for students on the admissions waitlist. 1. Re-evaluate your college preferences. Is the waitlist school still your number one choice? Have other options moved up (or down) on your list? If your top school today is one to which you were admitted, celebrate and accept the offer of admission. It is ok to turn down wait list opportunities at highly ranked schools if those schools are no longer at the top of YOUR list. The most common example of this that I see is a student who is waitlisted at one of the highly competitive schools (Ivy League type schools), but has decided to accept the offer from their state’s flagship university instead. Whether you decide based on geography, cost, proximity to family and friends, available majors, or any other factor, your ranking is the only one that matters. If your top school has waitlisted you, follow the rest of the steps in this article. Remember, quality work is better than a rushed job, but act quickly and adhere to all deadlines. 2. Accept the waitlist offer. In most cases this is little more than an electronic response, but it is essential that you let the college know you are still interested and would eagerly accept an offer of admission. 3. Accept the offer of admission from your next choice school. While you can hold out hope based on your waitlist position, you need to make plans in case. This means accepting the offer of admission, paying your deposit, and completing any financial aid or housing requirements. The goal here is to have your next best option securely in place as you wait. 4. Send an update to your waitlist school. The goal is to express your continued interest and provide NEW information they might consider. You might write a short letter and include a list of your new achievements, grades, etc. You want to include anything new that might help your case. This update serves a couple purposes:
- Clarifies your continuing interest— some universities waitlist applicants they view as unlikely prospects (I’ve seen this with out-of-state universities and private colleges where you have little personal or geographic connection.) In these cases, a clear message that if admitted you will attend can help.
- Provides additional reasons to admit— maybe you had some concerning grades on your mid-year report and can show clear improvement. Maybe you have continued to excel in your academic and extracurricular endeavors. Make sure you convey any new information.