12 Most Key Things to Do (and Don’t Do) If You’re Wait-Listed
Nobody likes being strung along. But if you’re one of the roughly 10 percent of college applicants today who find themselves on a waiting list, that’s pretty much what it feels like. Students on the waiting list anguish over whether or not they have a chance at being admitted.
If you’re being wait-listed by a college or university that is high on your list, the uncertainty is even worse. But the situation is not entirely out of your hands.
Today, things are pretty messy in the high-stakes college admissions landscape. More students are applying to more colleges to maximize their chances of securing a spot. In turn, colleges are accepting — and rejecting — more applicants. And because it is becoming so hard to predict which students will attend, admissions officers are building large wait list pools as insurance.
Keep these things in mind if you’re on the waiting list.
1. Be realistic
The majority of students never get off the list. Most years, less than a third of wait-listed students eventually get accepted. In some cases — especially at elite colleges — no students actually get off the list. You should definitely move forward with a backup college.
2. Reply promptly
This might sound like a no-brainer but return the card or fill out the online form to indicate your interest in staying on the wait list. Many colleges want an answer on your decision by mid-April. And think about whether you really want to attend that school. You shouldn’t stay on the list if there is any doubt about whether you would enroll there, because if and when the time comes, you might only have a few hours to confirm.
3. Tell the truth
Don’t say you’ll enroll if admitted unless you will. And if you do decide to stay on the list, send your deposit and make plans to enroll at another institution in the event that you are not admitted from the wait list.
4. It might be tempting
But don’t call to get the reason why you were put on the wait list. It’s kind of like asking someone, ‘Why do you prefer an apple over a banana?” There are many variables that come into play when admissions officers make their decision, and rarely will they tell you it’s because of X, Y or Z that you didn’t get admitted.
5. Let the college know
If you have new academic information or special accomplishments to boast about — strong third quarter grades, new standardized testing results, a track team win — let the college know. If you don’t have new official grades yet, you can contact your teachers and ask that they provide you with a mid-term update.
6. Do correspond
Crafting a well-written letter to the admissions committee that expresses your commitment to the school, as well as an academic reason for wanting to attend, could also tip the scales in your favor. In the letter, relay in one short paragraph why the school is a good fit for you, whether it’s an academic program or an extra-curricular activity, and how you would contribute to the campus community. Colleges seek out students from their wait lists who are committed to attending.
7. Make an appointment
You can call and ask if you can interview, especially if you haven’t interviewed already, some colleges permit interviews for students on the wait list. Try to schedule the meeting with the dean of admissions, and make your case directly.
8. No bribes
Don’t try to buy your way in with goodies, cookies, posters, and YouTube videos expressing your interest in enrolling generally do very little to further a cause.
9. Take a year off
This might also be an ideal time to explore a “gap year” between high school and college. Colleges and guidance counselors alike encourage it, and it might open some new doors and give you time to re-assess your goals. A gap year could take a disappointment and transform it into an exciting opportunity for growth, adventure, or a career internship.
10. Take the high road
Don’t have alumni write to the school for you; it’s rarely effective to scrounge around to find alumni who are willing to write letters recommending you. Such letters tend to be shallow and they make you look like you’re begging. Ask yourself if such letters will really change your credentials. Chances are they won’t.
11. Don’t pester the admissions counselors
Harassing your admissions counselor won’t help your situation. Calling frequently and showing up at the admissions office isn’t going to improve your chances, but it may annoy the extremely busy admissions employees.
12. This is about you
Don’t let your parents argue with the admissions folks. Parents should be part of your college planning and application process, but the college wants to see you advocating for yourself. You — not Mom or Dad — should be calling and writing to the admissions office.
Did you hit the wait list? Were you on the wait list and have some experience you would like to share? Love to hear it in the comments.
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