What To Do If You Are Waitlisted for College

Land on the waitlist at your top college choice? Don't Despair

waitlisted for college

What to do if you are waitlisted for college? Don't be upset. You are not out of the hunt for a spot in next year’s class. However, get ready to gather all the facts so that you can make an informed decision on how to handle the situation.

1. You need to decide if want to accept a spot on the wait list. Here are some questions you should get answered. Ask admissions if their waitlist is ranked and where you are on the list. Some schools actually will assign a numerical value to your application. They can tell you that you are #100 out of 350 applicants that are on their waitlist. You can also request historical data on the percentage of waitlist applicants that have been offered admissions over the past 2 years. You may also be able to search out that information on the web. Ask when they begin offering admissions to those on the waitlist and how long that process continues. I have seen offers come in to students through July. This will help you to develop a more accurate picture of your chances of gaining admission off the waitlist.

2. Update admissions with any recent accomplishments, as well as academic transcript information. Brag.. don't be shy! You should do this by a personal letter, addressed to the Director of Admissions and the regional admissions counselor. If you don’t have their names, get them. Let them know about any honors that you have received. In addition, reiterate why you want to attend that school. Be specific.. Do not generalize with comments like “ You are and continue to be my first choice.” Tell them you have agreed to remain on the waitlist as “ABC University” offers you a specific opportunity. This could be its excellence in the course of study you are going to pursue. For example your goal is a career teaching in an inner city neighborhood, discuss the unique the courses they offer in urban education. Spotlight the specifics of what has drawn you to the school and do some research if necessary to speak to their distinctive niche. Think of it as preparing for a job interview and being able to speak on the company and its strengths and why you would be a good fit.

3. Obtain a letter of recommendation from an alumni or a letter from your HS principal or counselor advocating for you. Even though recommendations accompanied your application, this is a good time to get another one. An alumni, who knows of your strong passion for the school, would be my first choice. You need to fully explain your situation to help the person best prepare an effective letter of recommendation on your behalf. There is further information on asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation here.

Additional Considerations

a. Plan a parallel track your other options.Where were you accepted? Have you visited those schools? If not, now is the time to do that. You need to get on campus in order to make a valid decision as to your future.

b. Evaluate your financial aid packages from schools that have offered you acceptance. If cost is a determining factor in your final selection process, this is very important. If you do gain admission off the waitlist, you may be getting leftovers in terms of financial aid. This could make the school too expensive. You can contact admissions or financial aid and ask how any potential aid package could be impacted by the waitlist process.

c. If you need to accept another school’s admissions offer, in advance of knowing the outcome of your waitlist situation, carefully review housing or admissions acceptance deposit requirements. Ascertain what percentage is refundable if you change your mind.

In the final analysis, you need to decide how long you can live in a holding pattern. Really evaluate why the school that waitlisted you would be a better choice than schools that have offered you acceptance. Make sure you base your decisions on more than the prestige and status of school. At the end of your college tenure, you alone will have determined the ultimate success or failure of your college experience through your own hard work, effort and diligence. An additional helpful resource can be found in this US News and World Report article on being waitlisted for college.

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