Most people do not enjoy uncertainty and the anxiety that it provokes. Students who have been offered a spot on the waitlist at a school they really want to attend often face this unpleasant uncertainty and anxiety. It can be disappointing to find out that one has not been accepted into his or her dream school. Students should allow themselves some time to feel sad about not being admitted, and then make some decisions. The chances of being accepted from the waitlist vary by school and depend on a variety of factors that are both unpredictable and often times out of a student’s control. Since that’s the case, students who have been given a place on the waitlist need to reflect on whether they want to remain on the waitlist.
When deciding whether they want to accept a position on the waitlist, students should think through whether it is worth it to do so. Some questions they should consider: Would she attend the school if admitted? What are the chances of him being admitted from the waitlist? Are waiting lists ranked (students should find out where they stand on the waiting list if that is the case)? Can students improve their chances for admission? Will financial aid and housing still be available for students admitted off the waitlist? Will there be difficulty in registering late for classes? (If the letter from the college doesn’t answer these questions, students should call the admissions office to get answers.)
Students should then compare those answers with the acceptance offers they’ve received from other schools.
If, upon reflection, the student decides s/he wants to attend the school if admitted from the waitlist, s/he should follow the directions provided by the school for confirming a place on the waiting list.
Because waitlists are unpredictable and offer no guarantees, even if a student has his or her mind set on the college where s/he is waitlisted, students should ALWAYS, ALWAYS (ALWAYS!) reserve a spot at a school that has admitted them. They should decide which offer of admission best suits them (forgetting about the school where they’re waitlisted for a moment), accept its admission offer and send in the check to reserve a spot. If, later on, the student gains admission from the waitlist, s/he will lose only the deposit. If, on the other hand, a student doesn’t reserve a place where s/he has already been admitted and does not get admitted from the waitlist—and most of the time there is only a slim chance—he or she will not have a place at any college.
While many of the factors in admission off the waitlist are out of a student’s control, students can take some steps to improve their chances of being accepted from the waitlist:
Make sure that the school knows that they would attend if accepted from the waitlist. Students should write a letter reiterating their interest in the school. When communicating with the college, students should make sure to be as specific as possible about why they want to attend. They should mention the special aspects of the school that appeal to them, and how and why they would take advantage of them as a student. They should tell colleges about the classes they’d like to take, the professors they’d like to work with, the specific ways they’d contribute to the campus community. Including details like these demonstrates a real interest in the school, and shows college admissions offices that a student genuinely believes that the college would be a good fit for him or her (and vice versa).
Keep up the hard work and keep those grades up! Send mid-year grade reports, additional test results and new accomplishments to let college admissions officers know about senior-year progress.
Once students have made clear their interest in the school that has waitlisted them and have reported to colleges about mid-year academic progress, students should do their best to focus on where their place is reserved. This way, if a spot does open up for a student from the waitlist and s/he decides to attend, great! But if that admission offer never comes, students can focus on the excitement of the school that has admitted them and the wonderful experiences that they will have there in the fall!