What to do if you’ve been waitlisted

Getting into college off the waitlist is not easy, but it can be done. The first step is staying positive. It is beyond frustrating to be placed on the waitlist and have the college admissions process drag out for a few more months, but waitlisted applicants need to keep in mind there are worse alternatives, like not having a shot at attending the school they were waitlisted by at all. Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all the students they’d like to in regular decision.

The second step is to get excited about the schools you were admitted to and begin to take advantage of admitted student days and other events to connect you with your potential future classmates. Most students get into a number of schools—get excited about these schools! The third step is to “work” the waitlist. These are our tips for waitlisted applicants:

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. Consider including:
    1. A paragraph or two of “academic” updates. Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take from the college/university you are writing to, like those you’d include in a Why School essay.
    2. A paragraph or two of “extracurricular” updates. This would include school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraphs, making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake at the college/university you are writing to would be nice additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at said college/university. Being very specific and naming the clubs or groups by name is important.
    3. A paragraph that talks about the additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know the college/university since you applied. This could include visiting (even if you’ve already visited campus), meeting with someone in admissions on campus or regionally, setting up an informational interview with a local alum, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
    4. A paragraph that reiterates your interest in the school, and that if admitted, you will attend. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter.
  2. Send your waitlist letter to your regional rep. Ask them if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not email them every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  3. Have your guidance counselor call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy. Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email.
  4. Make sure updated grades/transcript are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped. If your grades have gone down, this will not work in your favor.
  5. Check if the college/university has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending.
  6. Consider one or more of the following:
    1. Visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class, stay overnight, take advantage of any admissions events/programming you may not have taken advantage of the first time around.
    2. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs (some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs). This letter could be from a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person really knows you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions. If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
    3. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on FB, Instagram, Snap or other social channels, or Tweet to them your desire to attend.

Every year we help students get admitted off the waitlist, and it takes work! Contact us if you want advice specific to your WL situation.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for college admissions news, tips, and advice*

Related Posts