Colleges can only admit a certain amount of students every year. When they receive more applications than they have space for on their campus, they can’t admit every student who is qualified. Therefore, they admit only enough students they believe will accept their offer of admission. If not enough students accept their offer for admission, they will then offer admission to the students on the waitlist.
What does it mean to be waitlisted?
- You qualify for admission. Don’t let a waitlist decision make you feel bad about yourself. Colleges that use waitlists typically have smaller acceptance rates. There is just not enough space for all of the qualified students. There is not enough desks or beds for all of the students who want to attend. The admission committee had to make hard decisions and it may have come down to something very small. Don’t let a waitlist decision get you down.
- No guarantee of admission. Waitlists are not created to benefit students. Waitlists are created to meet the enrollment goals of the institution. If the formula the college used to determine how many students to offer enrollment was correct, they may never open their waitlist.
- There might be a chance for admission. Colleges that do open their waitlists will have different schedules. If they open their wait lists, they may open it in April or they may wait until the summer to offer you a spot.
What should you do if you’re waitlisted at a college you want to attend?
- Accept enrollment at a college that did offer admission. As mentioned previously, waitlist decisions can come at any time. Many waitlist are not opened until after May 1. Don’t lose your chance at admission at another college in case the waitlist college does not come through.
- Learn about your chances at the waitlist college. You can reach out to the admission office to learn about your chances of admission. Waitlists can be prioritized differently. Some colleges may give students an overall rank, while others will give priority to students based on the needs of the college. For example, if not enough students with a specific major enroll, the college may be more likely to admit students planning on studying a particular major. Your admission counselor may be able to give you a sense about how the waitlist works at their institution and your chances of being taken off the waitlist.
- Notify the college you want to remain on the waitlist. The college may need something in writing saying you want to stay on the waitlist. They may also ask for more information, such as updated grades or an additional recommendation. Read your waitlist letter carefully to ensure you comply with their requirements to stay on the waitlist.
- Advocate for yourself. Be proactive and reach out to the admission office to let them know exactly how interested you are in attending the college. Prove you have continued to do well academically by providing an updated transcript. You can also request an interview so the admission committee can get to know you and your desire to attend the institution.
- Plan for another college. Unfortunately, many colleges will never open their waitlist. Therefore, even if you stay on the wait list, plan on attending a college that did offer admission. Turn in your enrollment deposit by May 1. Submit financial aid and housing documents to the college. Get excited about the prospect of attending this college. If the waitlist college comes through, great! If not, you have a great alternative that you may discover is a better fit for you than the waitlist college.
Being placed on a waitlist is not an ideal situation. Instead of placing your hope in a college that may never open the door for you, celebrate the acceptance letters you did receive. You can hope the waitlist college will open a spot for you, but put your main focus on the college that is a sure thing for you.