What to do if you’ve been waitlisted

Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all of the students they’d like to in regular decision. The result? Often, placement on the waitlist. Getting admitted from a college waitlist is not easy, but it is possible at some schools.

After accepting a spot on the waitlist, many students just “sit” there—rarely do students continue to communicate with the school and go above and beyond in showing them they are their number one choice. The “sitting” method makes sense for many students, and especially students at schools that take very few students from the waitlist. But, for students who want to increase their likelihood of being admitted, “working” the waitlist can do exactly that—it can work.

Before getting busy implementing waitlist strategies, it is important that students deposit at their current top choice school (so a school where they have been admitted), and get excited about the prospect of attending. They should take advantage of admitted student days and other events that help students connect with their potential future classmates, including joining Class of 2022 Facebook groups. These forums are often very informative and fun and can help students take their minds off their waitlist status.

I also suggest getting familiar with the available college waitlist data. How many students at school X are offered spots on the waitlist? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against rather than sit hopefully in the dark. Look at the Common Data Set first. College Kickstart also provides very useful waitlist data from many top institutions and presents it clearly and concisely, typically in tables.

Once a student has accepted their spot on the waitlist, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized themselves with the waitlist data, I suggest considering the seven strategies I outlined in a recent Grown and Flown article. Not all of them are new, but some of my students have tested the ones that are a bit outside of the box, with success.


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