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Waitlisted? Try these 6 Steps to Move from Waitlisted to Admitted

Right now a number of students are receiving notifications that they have been waitlisted. That means that although these students were qualified, there are other students the college wants to make an offer to first. If this is you, they want you to wait to to see if any of those other students say no, then they will look to students on the waitlist to fill those spaces.

This is the admission decision that causes so much anxiety and disappointment. You're not in, but you're not out. You may not find out for months. And, if this was your first choice college, it's hard to think about other colleges.

But, you do have 3 choices.


  • Decline the offer to be put on the waitlist.

  • Accept the offer, do nothing and wait to see what happens.

  • You can accept the offer and try to persuade the college to select you from the waitlist.

Before you make your decision, you need to pay attention to the following issues:

1. What is your realistic chance of being selected off the waitlist? As a general rule, the more selective the college, the fewer students will be offered admission from the waitlist. On the other hand, less selective schools might offer admission to the majority or even all of of the waitlist. Call the admissions office and find out:

  • How many students have been on the waitlist the last few years and how many of those were offered admission. This trend is likely to continue and be a good indicator of what will happen this year.

  • Ask if the waitlist is prioritized and if it is, where do you fall on that list - top, middle, bottom.

  • Would submitting first semester senior grades, subject test scores, additional recommendation letters make any difference at this point?

  • Would they allow an in-person or on-line interview?

  • Ask who the college representative is for your geographic area. This is the person you will be communicating with if you decide to try and persuade the college to take you. Make sure to get his or her e-mail address and phone number.

  • Lastly, and only if you mean it and have discussed it with your parent(s) - tell the college that you are willing to accept summer or spring admission instead of the fall and see what they say. If they say yes, remember, this comes with it's own set of questions and concerns that you will have to research and review.

2. Decide if you are willing to spend the time and do the extra work associated with trying to persuade the college to pick you from the waitlist recognizing that it might not happen?

3. Be aware that most colleges want to know your decision by May 1st. It is unlikely that you will hear from your waitlisted college by the May 1 deadline. Therefore, you should accept an admissions offer from another college and if you plan to live on campus, that school will be asking you for a housing deposit. If you later decide not to attend, you will most likely lose all or some of your deposit.

4. There may be less financial aid offered to students from the waitlist.

5. You may miss some of the admitted student functions, depending on when you were offered admission.

6. You may have fewer housing options, again related to when you are taken off the waitlist and offered admission.

Ok, so now you have some information to evaluate your chances of admission, and you have considered the pros and cons of being waitlisted. If you make the decision to move forward and try to convince the college to select you, here is what I suggest you try:


  1. Let the college know right away that you accept the offer to be placed on the waitlist. How quickly a student responds to a waitlist invitation may be taken into consideration by some colleges

  2. Send additional documentation (e.g., test scores, letters of recommendation) if the college will accept it at this late date.

  3. Interview, if possible.

  4. Write a follow-up letter to your college representative letting him or her know that you definitely want to attend and why that college is a good fit for you. Be as specific as possible and include items like the following in the letter:

  • Reference specific professors or specific departmental research that interests you

  • Provide an update on your grades and standardized test scores, if these scores make you appear in a positive light

  • Include any additional awards or honors that you received

  • If there has been a change in your employment status (e.g., if you have taken a part- time job) include this information, as most colleges view paid work as a positive

5. Continue to communicate with the college representative when you

have significant new information to report. Don't bombard the person

with weekly calls, texts or e-mails if you have nothing new to report.


6. Ask your school guidance counselor to call the college representative

and put in a good word for you - but again only if he or she has

something new to share with the representative that was not provided in

his or her original report or recommendation.

Note: If you are waitlisted at more than one college and you no longer have an interest in attending those colleges, let them politely know that you have made another choice. This may improve someone else's chances of being admitted who really wanted to go there, and you would want someone to do that for you. You can notify them by e-mail or call the admissions office.

So, after you've tried all these things, how might things turn out? Well, you will either be offered admission or you won't - but at least you will know that you gave it your all. Now it's time to turn your attention to the college that is thrilled to have you.

In summary, I hope all of you have found and been accepted by colleges that you would love to attend. However, if a few colleges along the way were not ready to offer you admission, you have learned some strategies to try to get them to change their minds. Try these strategies if so motivated or accept the offer of a college, which can't wait to have you in their next freshman class.



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