Friday, March 9, 2018

The Dreaded College Decision: You've Been Wait Listed


You've been sort of rejected for now, but maybe we'll accept you later...or we might reject you later...or you may never hear from us again….

Such is the world of college admission wait-lists. The NACAC 2017 State of College Admission Summary, reports for the Fall 2016 admission cycle, 39 percent of institutions reported using a wait list. Institutions accepted an average of 23 percent of all students who chose to remain on wait lists.

The takeaway is that students should understand that being wait listed is likely a “no”. Basically it’s a way to say, “We like you, and under different circumstances we would have said yes, but unfortunately we got so many applications this year that we are unable to admit everyone who would be successful at our college”

It stinks, but it's a tool colleges use 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. 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.


To check your college's wait list statistics, go to Big Future and type in a college name. Select “Applying” from the left column and look at Wait List Statistics at the top. 

Not very encouraging, is it? There are, however, some steps wait-listed students can 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, received a recent honor or published in a professional journal, send those as well.
  • Talk to your school counselor. They may be willing to contact the admissions office to convey your interest and to offer their support for your credentials. 
  • 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.