Getting waitlisted from your number one school choice can be difficult. Logically, you know that it's a better outcome than an outright rejection, but the uncertainty around getting waitlisted can ratchet up anxiety during an already stress-filled college admissions process.
It's not unheard of to be admitted after getting placed on a waitlist. For the Fall 2018 admission cycle, schools that used waitlists accepted an average of 20 percent of students on those lists, according to the 2019 State of College Admission report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Follow these steps to help manage the uncertainty around knowing if you will be admitted.
1. Find Out What Your Admissions Odds Are
Most admissions offices can tell you what percentage of students their school admits from the waitlist, and The College Board provides school-by-school numbers.
Ask the admissions office the deadline by which they let students know whether they'll be let in. This varies by school but typically takes place in May or June, after the deposit deadline for admitted students to enroll. You may need to accept an offer elsewhere before you've heard back from your top choice school. If that's the case, you'll need to decide whether you still want to go to the school that waitlisted you since there may be financial drawbacks such as a lost deposit or less financial aid.
2. Re-evaluate the Schools That Did Accept You
Don't miss out on enrolling in another school while you're waiting to hear from the school that waitlisted you. If you can, make another round of college visits and re-evaluate the financial aid offers that you received.
Be sure to keep your grades up in the meantime, since the admissions department of the school that waitlisted you may want to see an updated transcript before making their ultimate decision.
3. Decide Whether You're Okay with Waiting
As the name suggests, being placed on a waitlist means that there will be a delay before you find out whether or not you've ultimately been accepted to the school. If you'd prefer not to deal with that uncertainty, move on to the other schools on your list. You can accept admission at another school and withdraw if you get off the waitlist at your first choice, although you may forfeit your deposit or not receive as much in financial aid from your waitlisted school.
4. Get In Touch with the School
If you want to remain on the waitlist, formally notify the school that you're still interested in enrolling. You'll want to send a letter of intent that includes information about any recent achievements since you sent in your application.
Reach out to your contacts in the admissions office to request an interview (or a follow-up interview if you've already had one), so that you can personally show the school why you're a great candidate. While it's important to let the school know you're still interested, monitor the number of times you are reaching out to the school. Regular calls or emails to the busy admissions office could hurt, rather than help, your chances.