What to Do If You’re Waitlisted by a College

What should you do if you've been waitlisted?

Watch photo via Flickr.

You finally finish your college applications, your parents have stopped nagging you, and now you wait. If you get in, your ecstatic. If you are denied admission, you can move on, but being waitlisted is a little bit like being stuck in the nowhere land of college admissions.

It’s the purgatory of your senior year, so, what do you do?

Being waitlisted is not your cue to sit around and eventually wait for your fate to unfold. It should not be a passive activity.

But, before we suggest the action you should take, let’s first define a waitlist.

The term itself is a bit of a misnomer since, in reality, it’s not an actual list. It’s more like a wait “pool”.

The group of waitlisted students is never prioritized or ordered, so colleges can take you out of this pool to suit their needs. For example, let’s say far more females than males indicate that they’re going to attend a given college, the college may take a disproportionate number of males off of the waitlist.

What you SHOULD NOT do if you’re waitlisted

1. Do NOT create a spectacle

If you’ve seen the show or movie Legally Blonde, you’ll know what I mean…no marching bands or the like. Creating a spectacle will not reflect well on you and could affect your chances of being taken off of the waitlist.

2. Do NOT set up a tent outside of the admission office and indicate you’re staying until you’re accepted…again, this is a spectacle.

I’m not making this up, it’s been done. It won’t help your cause, so don’t do it.

As with the first point, your best bet is to be polite and courteous, not confrontational.

3. Do NOT have a letter sent from your grandfather’s friend’s neighbor who knows a US Senator.

If someone does not know you well, they should not be contacting the school on your behalf.

What you SHOULD do if you’re waitlisted

1. Let it settle in

Evaluate how much you want to attend this institution, and decide whether or not you want to stay on the waitlist.

2. Make your choice known

If you decide you have other options that would make you happy and you really don’t care to stay on the waitlist, contact that school and indicate to them that you no longer wish to be considered for a spot off the waitlist. In all fairness, free that spot up for someone else.

You’d want someone to do the same for you.

If you decide you want to stay on the waitlist, indicate that to the college as well. They might ask you to indicate this on a postcard or website, but don’t stop there.

Anecdotally, waitlisted students who do nothing more than check an interesting box are pretty unlikely to get a spot in the next class. IF a college is going to offer you a spot, they want to know there is a high likelihood you will accept it (and them). There are good ways to indicate this interest and less than desirable ways to do so.

3. Write a letter

Want to show your interest in the school and your intent to enroll if you’re given a chance? Write a genuine letter expressing your sincere interest in attending their college and tell them why.

4. Tell them why they should accept you

In your letter, update them on anything that has happened since you filed your application. Did you win any awards? Complete a significant project? Have an updated report card? Give them more ammunition for WHY they should take you.

5. Send it to the right person

If you want to address your letter to a specific person, you can find the name of the admissions representative who reads applications for your geographic region. This information is usually available on the school’s website. Addressing the letter to the Director of Admission or Dean is also fine.

6. Be yourself and proofread

I can’t stress this enough. There is no worse feeling than sending off a beautiful letter that extols all of your virtues only to later realize that you misspelled a word or forgot to capitalize the name of the university.

Good luck!


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.