Waitlisted? Here’s My Advice.

After months of stressing over applications, a waitlist offer from your top college can be a bittersweet pill to swallow. You didn’t quite make the cut for acceptance, but they clearly considered you worthy enough. So, is it worth it to continue to wait?

I recommend that you start by researching to gauge your chances of being taken off the waitlist. To find waitlist stats, start by finding the college on Big Futures, and looking at the “Applying” section. If the school doesn’t publish their waitlist stats, call the admissions office directly to ask. You can also ask how many students were offered a waitlist spot this year. Use these numbers to estimate your chances of coming off the waitlist. (Bear in mind that waitlist practices usually change year to year, so last year’s numbers are a guideline, but not an exact predictor.)

Be realistic once you have these statistics. If the college only took 5 off a waitlist of hundreds, you know your chances are slim – in cases like this I recommend you move on! But if the numbers look promising, it may be worth giving the waitlist a shot.

If you decide to accept your spot, carefully follow the instructions to secure your spot on the waitlist. Some colleges are very specific, and they may require you to do some additional writing in order to make your case. Don’t miss any deadlines or requirements, as this will completely nix your chances.

Next, it’s very important to make it clear to the college that they are your #1 choice! When deciding whom to take off the waitlist in May or June, admissions officers look for the students who they think are still guaranteed to attend. So follow the guidelines for demonstrated interest and make sure they know you would be a sure bet. Send a few emails expressing your continued interest, or even send a hand written note. This recent article describes some interesting tactics students have used – I’m not necessarily recommending these, but it does demonstrate the importance of making an effort.

Meanwhile, accept your spot at another school by the May 1 deadline, even if this means putting down a non-refundable deposit. It isn’t unethical to accept a spot and then pull out later – this happens all the time with students who have been waitlisted.

And finally, my most important piece of advice – don’t waste too much energy pining for the school that waitlisted you, especially if your chances are not good. Senior year is a special time, so why spend it stressing about whether or not XYZ University will offer you a spot? Instead, get excited about the colleges that DO want you, and put your energy toward whatever lucky school you chose. A student who starts college with enthusiasm for their school is far more likely to be successful – so move on quickly from the waitlist blues and get on with the business of enjoying your senior year!

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