Waitlisted? Guidelines on using this time wisely
College admissions results are in! Some exciting, some disappointing and some ambiguous.
What do you do if you receive a notification that says you have been placed on a school’s waitlist? It is not an outright rejection, rather a position of uncertainty, which can be unsettling. And if you have been waitlisted at a school you love and really want to attend, the main question is “What can I do now?”
Below are some useful guidelines to help you navigate this confusing time. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee you will be taken off the waitlist, but in the event the waitlist opens up, your new information might make all the difference and improve your chances of success.
Follow instructions and do what the college has asked you to do!
- If they want you to tell them whether or not you want to remain on the waitlist, do so, immediately.
- If they want additional materials, or an updated transcript, new test results, send them.
- Some colleges ask for a letter from you to outline any updates to your application, or explain your passion for the program. This is the time to highlight your progress – talk about new awards, extracurricular achievements or community involvement. Make sure you send this information fast. This is your chance to tip the scales.
If there are no instructions from the college, this is the time to email and express your interest to the relevant person in the admissions office and ask, politely, what steps you can take to get off the waitlist. They might not always respond with actionable steps, but if they do, obviously follow them. If they don’t respond, or respond sparingly, follow instructions and be careful about over-communicating with them. Admissions officers are very busy during this time and you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons as the person who wrote them five emails in a row.
Secure a letter of recommendation, if possible
If you have a personal relationship with an alumni of the college, a letter of recommendation or a word in the ear of an admissions officer might help at this point. However, only pursue this option with an alumnus who actually knows and can strongly recommend you Finding a random connection through friends or family will not serve you in the long run if they make a specific case for why your position on the wait list should be re-evaluated.
Make it clear that you will attend if admitted
Wait lists do not move in a consecutive, ranked order. Rather, when a space opens up the admissions office will seek to fill it with candidates who they know are likely to accept the space. They do not want to waste their time or jeapordise their yield offering the open spot to someone who is uncertain. So communicate clearly and repeatedly your commitment to attend if admitted from the waitlist. If you are not committed, then perhaps consider removing yourself from the waitlist and move on with one of your other offers.
Ultimately the admissions decision is beyond your control. Nonetheless, it’s worth making an effort to state your case, especially if the college is one you are deeply committed to attending. And please remember, while you are trying to get off the waitlist at one school, you probably have some other schools eager to accept you, so your options are likely to be exciting either way!