Wait Listed for College...Now What?

College Wait List
You've been sort of rejected for now, but maybe we'll accept you later...or we might reject you later...

Such is the world of college admission wait-lists. According to a recent study by the NACAC, more colleges than ever are using wait-lists as a means to manage enrollment. Colleges are also reporting that they are accepting a decreasing number of students from their wait lists, and they typically wait until after May 1st to inform candidates of their decision.

None of this is good news for students. Most colleges do not rank or prioritize their wait-list, leaving students with no sense of their chances of eventually getting an acceptance from the school.

Essentially, a wait-listed student is in limbo- a very stressful place to hang out. There are, however, some steps wait-listed students should take:

  • Keep emotions in check. Do not let anxiety or anger rule the day. Okay, you can crumple up the letter, kick the trash can, have a good cry, but then it's time to move on with some action steps. Remember, the college is simply managing its admissions. This is not a personal statement about your worth as a student or as a person.
  • Move ahead with the college search. Evaluate the schools that have offered admission, or continue applying to colleges that have a good probability of offering admission.
  • If you really believe the college that wait-listed you is your best option, send a letter reiterating your continued interest. You want to show that you are the type of student they want on campus. If you've had an improvement in grades, send those as well.
  • Ask your counselor to contact the admissions office to convey your interest and to offer their support for your credentials. Talk to your counselor about other options if you need additional support.
  • Don't stay trapped in limbo-land. Admission from a wait-list is not in your control. Move ahead with other college decisions. You may ultimately attend the school that wait-listed you, or you will head off to a college that said yes right away.