Learn How to Weigh Your Options and Make the Most of a Waitlist Decision
Unlike acceptance or rejection, the path for waitlisted students is a little unclear. Some applicants may be unsure about what their admissions odds are, what they can do to improve their chances of acceptance, and if staying on the waitlist is even worthwhile.
While there is no one-size-fits all approach for navigating a waitlist decision, there are several next steps students in this scenario should consider. Keep reading for some of our top tips for improving your waitlist odds, exploring other options, and making the best decision for your needs and goals.
Get the 411
It’s important to get all of the facts and understand how university waitlists work before deciding what you should do next. During the admissions process, universities must predict how many students will ultimately enroll, which can be difficult to forecast. Waitlists are comprised of applicants who are just as qualified as admitted candidates, there just weren’t enough spots in the freshman class. Once a university can better gauge their enrollment numbers, the school can begin to offer vacant spots to candidates from the waitlist. The waitlist isn’t ranked; instead, admissions officers review the school’s institutional needs and decide whom to admit from the waitlist based on those factors.
Be Honest With Yourself
Ask yourself if the school you were waitlisted at is truly your first choice option. After receiving acceptances at other institutions, some students may feel pulled towards another college. Feelings about schools can change throughout the admissions process; accept this and honor your current thoughts on each option. If the school you were waitlisted at is truly your first choice, remaining waitlisted is the only way to potentially gain a seat in the class. On the contrary, if you are excited about another college acceptance, some students may choose to remove themselves from the waitlist. Whatever you decide, be sure to take the appropriate steps to inform the college whether or not you intend to remain waitlisted.
Secure Your Spot at Another School
Whether you choose to remain on a university waitlist or not, it’s important to secure your spot at another college (unless you decide to take a gap year). Many waitlist decisions don’t come until after the May 1 enrollment deadline for most colleges so lining up another option is imperative. Weigh all of your acceptances and avoid factoring your waitlist school into the equation. Students who created a balanced list of best-fit colleges should be excited to attend any institution from this selection and trust that there will be exciting opportunities at each school. Celebrate your enrollment, even if you are still waitlisted at another institution.
Show Your Passion (But Be Realistic)
Students who choose to stay on the waitlist should reaffirm their interest in attending a specific school by sending an update to the admissions office (unless a school specifically states that they do not wish to receive additional materials.) This can include any accomplishments that occurred after a student submitted their application, as well as grades and AP test scores. Students should also use this as an opportunity to convey their passion for the college and commitment to enrolling if admitted. Simultaneously, students need to remain realistic about their admissions odds as a waitlisted applicant. The admission rate from the waitlist can be significantly lower than the regular admittance rate, particularly at competitive colleges. It’s okay to hold out hope but strive to also get excited about the opportunity to attend another school and that institution’s unique learning experiences!
There is no way around it – waitlisted students will have to deal with some uncertainty when making decisions about their next steps. If you are currently navigating a waitlist outcome, our team of expert college counselors can help you develop your own plan of action.