What to do When You’re Wait-listed

What To do When You're Waitlisted

photo credit: Ken Teegardin


You’ve waited and waited for months for an admissions decision, only to find that you’re wait-listed at one of your top choice schools. How can you deal with this college decision purgatory?

First: Show your interest. Don’t harass the admissions office (that may actually work against you), but a nice email or a handwritten note is a smart idea. Explain why you would be a good fit for the school, and state that you are hopeful that you will be able to attend. Send the e-mail or note yourself, do not let your parents call or e-mail the admission office. Your mom isn’t on the wait-list, you are!

If you have won any awards or made any notable progress in school since you applied, you can and should mention that to the college. This probably goes without saying, but bribes will not work. You should appear very interested in the school, but not desperate.

Second: Make other plans. A wait-list is far from a sure thing, you may get in, you may not. After you’ve shown your strong interest in the wait-list school, consider it a rejection until you hear otherwise.

Assuming you’ve been admitted at other colleges, decide among those schools where you will attend, and try to put the school where you are wait-listed out of your mind. Visit those schools, and decide which one is the best fit for you. Read our blog here on how to decide between multiple acceptances.

Do not wait to hear if you’re off the wait-list before you pay a deposit at a school where you are accepted. You will probably hear the school’s final decision about the wait-list after the May 1st deposit deadline (after other students have turned the school down). Pay a deposit somewhere you are already in, or you’ll lose your spot.

Third: If you do get in off the wait-list, remember that you do deserve to be at that school; do not feel insecure that you were initially wait-listed. The college admission process is not perfect, and many deserving students get turned away. Once you’ve off the wait-list, you’re accepted; no need to give it any more thought than that.

And if you don’t get off the wait-list? The school where you do end up will likely be where you belong–somehow it usually works out that way.

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