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The Waitlist:

One of the most frustrating results in your college application process is being placed on a college’s waitlist. It extends the uncertainty and stress inherent in the process and can feel discouraging. But there is a bright side: Being waitlisted means the admissions readers believe you’re a qualified applicant, but there’s not enough room to admit you right now. If you’re waitlisted, here are some factors to consider as you decide what to do next.

Of note: This year, you may not learn where you are waitlisted until after May 15, the date by which many colleges are requiring applicants to put down their deposits to reserve their space at the college. Typically, this date is May 1, but issues with the federal financial aid application are causing delays.

What to Consider:

How do you feel about the school?

Especially if you’ve been deferred and then waitlisted, you might not be feeling like the school wants you as much as some others where you’ve been admitted (and which continue to market to you like crazy because they want you to come!). It feels better to be wanted, and some students at this point let the school go and turn their attention to schools where they’ve been admitted. In addition, if you wouldn’t even attend the school where you are waitlisted – maybe due to financials, distance or other factors – it makes no sense to prolong the limbo. However, iIf the waitlist school is your absolute No. 1 choice, you may decide to hang in there.

How do you feel about the process?

If you are so over the stress of uncertainty and limbo and really want your college process to be concluded, you might decline your spot on the waitlist and turn your attention to choosing from among your admitted schools. If you’re comfortable with not knowing for a few more weeks or months, you may choose to accept a spot.

What do you know about the odds?

At the vast majority of schools, the chances of getting in off of the waitlist are pretty slim. You might decide that playing such long odds is not your best option.

What about financial aid and housing?

If you need financial aid, you will want to make sure that if admitted from the waitlist, the school will still provide you with the aid that works for you and your family. In addition, you will want to confirm that that housing would still be available to you if you are admitted very shortly before classes begin!

How bad is your “senioritis”?

The second semester of senior year, while always important, becomes even more critical if you accept a spot on the waitlist, since college admissions offices will take hard looks at second-semester transcripts when deciding whom to admit from the waitlist. If you are struggling with motivation in this final semester, you might take some pressure off by declining the waitlist spot.

Next Steps:

If you decide to remain on a college’s waitlist, there are two important actions you must take!

  1. Confirm your spot on the waitlist. If you decide to remain on a college’s waitlist, you must proactively accept a spot on that list. (It doesn’t just happen!) In addition, write a letter to the admissions office expressing your continued interest in the university, and describing some highlights of your academic and extracurricular activities since you submitted your application.
  2. Put down a deposit at a college that has accepted you. Be sure to send in a deposit to another school that has already admitted you to ensure that you have a place to attend college in the fall! If you are later admitted to the school where you’re on the waitlist and want to attend there instead, you will need to place a deposit down at that school. You will not receive a refund on the deposit to the other school.
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