You’ve spent countless hours completing and sending in college applications. Then you played the waiting game. Some schools responded faster than others, but you finally got the envelope you’ve been waiting for. You tear into it, trying to keep your nerves in check and not completely shred the letter that’s waiting inside. After unfolding the letter you read, “we are unable to grant you admission at this time, however, you have been placed on our waitlist…” and instantly, your heart sinks. Did you even read past the first sentence, or was the rest just a blur?
Either way, it’s okay–being put on a waitlist is not the same as being denied admission!
So what to do when you are waitlisted for college? Follow these 5 steps.
Step 1: Breathe
Remember, you made it further than many other applicants! No, you weren’t granted automatic entrance, but you were placed on a list to follow up with.
Do NOT: Panic, take it too personally, or be defeated.
Step 2: Call the admissions office
One of the first things you should do after being placed on a waitlist is to call the admissions office and find out how their waitlist works. Do they rank their applicants based on their admissions profile, or is it in order of who applied first? They should be able to give you this information and let you know where you fall on the list.
Or, if you are no longer interested, let them know that too so they can remove you from the list.
Do NOT: Let your mother call the admissions office and demand to know why you were wait-listed.
Step 3: Consider the schools you have been accepted to
It’s a good idea to accept admission at one of the schools you have been accepted to, that way if you don’t end up getting in, you still have somewhere to go in the fall. When you will find out whether or not you’ve been accepted at a school where you were placed on a waitlist will depend on their timeline. Unfortunately, this means you might miss out on other opportunities while waiting to hear back from one school.
Accepting admission at your second choice will probably require you to pay a fee. But it is better to be guaranteed a spot in one freshman class than to not have a college to go to in the fall because you waited too long to hear back from one.
Do NOT: Wait until it’s too late and end up without a spot in an incoming freshman class.
Step 4: Up your game!
By this point, it’s almost the end of your senior year, so stay strong–you’re almost there! Finish out your spring semester with strong grades. Some schools wait until they see your final transcript before making their decision, so continue to do your best.
Another way to stand out is to remain involved in extracurricular activities. Colleges love accepting students who are active and involved in their schools and communities.
Do NOT: Give up and throw in the towel prematurely–the game isn’t over until you walk across the stage at graduation.
Step 5: Advocate for yourself
Make your voice heard, but make sure it’s in a professional manner. Call the college and ask for an interview (or second interview)–there’s great power in being able to put a name with a face. Asking to meet with someone also shows initiative. If you can’t physically make it to campus to speak with someone, write the admissions team a letter about why their school is the perfect fit for you.
You can also ask your school counselor to recommend you. Some schools require a counselor’s recommendation with their applications, but not all do. They can call and ask what it is that is preventing you from being admitted, too. After all that, it might come down to who you know. If you know any faculty or alumni, see if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you. It never hurts to ask.
Do NOT: Again, I repeat, do NOT let your mother, father, 5th cousin twice removed, or another person call in and beg the admissions department to let you in.
If you have followed all of these steps, and spoken with the admissions department, yourself, I’m proud of you. It’s not easy to stick your neck out there when there’s a possibility of rejection, so kudos to you! However, the rest is up to the admissions team and the fates. Either way, if you’ve put yourself out there and asked for a shot, you’ll do just fine in the end–that’s a skill some never develop.