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Help, I’ve Been Waitlisted!

You walk out to the mailbox or sit down to log on to your dream school’s website.  Your heart beats rapidly with anticipation, knowing it all comes down to this moment.  You tear open the envelope or click the “enter” button.  You hold your breath as you read: waitlisted.  You begin to experience disappointment, perhaps tempered by confusion.  How should you proceed?

Waitlist notification can be exceedingly frustrating for applicants.  They spend several nerve-racking months anxiously awaiting a definitive response only to discover that they’re still stuck in limbo.  While some candidates decide to immediately write-off the college, others still desperately cling to the dream.  Before you make any rash decisions, there are a few tactics and details to consider.

Be Proactive

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you want to remain on the waitlist, reach out to the college.  Inquire as to whether or not your housing and aid options will be limited if you are accepted at a later date.  Further, some colleges rank the applicants they place on their waitlist.  Ask if your respective school will reveal your status.  The higher you are placed, the greater the likelihood you’ll get in.

Moreover, once you decide that you definitely want to stay on the waitlist, you can strategize.  For example, you might send a letter letting the admissions office know that the college is still your top choice and assuring them you will attend if accepted.  You can also use this opportunity to send any supplemental materials that might bolster your application.  Additionally, you can also request a new interview, using this time to once again stress interest and bring to light any new achievements.  

Finally, don’t slack off.  Your second semester grades will be sent to the college.  If you allow your GPA to fall, your candidacy will definitely be weakened.

Choose an Alternate School

Ultimately, even if you do decide to remain on the waitlist, there’s no guarantee that you’ll eventually be offered a spot.  That’s the simple reality of the situation.  Therefore, we strongly urge you to enroll in a school that did accept you.  If you wait until you receive a definitive answer, most deadlines will have passed and then your options will be severely limited.  It’s better to send in a deposit somewhere and start getting psyched about that school.   You can always back out should you be fortunate enough to get off the waitlist (though you will forfeit your deposit).

Don’t Take a Break

Sometimes, if students don’t get into their first choice schools, they contemplate taking time off and applying again next year.  We advise against that tactic.  There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a gap year; however, not getting into your dream school isn’t reason enough.  Additionally, it’s actually much easier to transfer from a second choice or a less prestigious school.  Instead of putting all your focus into redoing your application, you should jump into your collegiate experience.  Work diligently and put your academics on the front burner.  You’ll be a much more competitive candidate if you earn great grades once you’re enrolled in college.  And you just might discover that your second choice is your dream school after all!

Being waitlisted by a school can be a difficult pill to swallow.  You’ve spent the majority of your senior year playing the waiting game and it’s upsetting when that gets extended.  If, after all of your other college decisions arrive, you still hope to attend, that’s fine.  You should definitely put your name on the list.  However, you also need to brush off the disappointment and think about life beyond that particular school.  We promise you it’s probably just as rosy.



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Don Munce