College Wait Lists: What Should You Do?


Last week, I talked about college admissions notifications being released during March and April. One annoying part of this process is the wait list. A college does not outright reject you, but it also does not give you any guarantee that you’ll be accepted. It is college admissions limbo, and nobody wants to be there. Let me review some things to keep in mind and do if you find yourself on a wait list.

1) Decide if the school is truly the right one for you.

Wait lists are a time when you can reflect on your choice to apply to a given school. It may be that you were accepted somewhere else with a much better overall academic and funding package. If that’s the case, then remaining on the waitlist is unnecessary, right? Don’t impede others from getting into a school that you have no strong feelings about.

2) Get in touch, but don’t go crazy.

Let’s say you want to remain on the wait list (if not, then you should let the school know immediately). You should contact the person who is responsible for your admission. Usually schools accept a letter or additional essay that explains why you are still interested and what you have done since initially applying. Correspondences like these are appropriate, but you shouldn’t send letters every day. Also, you shouldn’t go into creepy suitor mode and send cookies or informal gifts. Be formal and respect the school for what it is: a place of higher-level learning.

3) Realize that you lack control.

Sadly, not much you do will change your admission status from wait list to accepted. You are simply fighting against math. Each university allocates a certain number of acceptances each year, and for whatever reason, you did not make the initial cut. The wait list is more to help universities fill in openings once accepted students decline their offers. Like the cruel indifference of the universe, colleges simply want to fill their quotas (of accepting excellent students).

Final Thoughts

Nobody wants to be on the wait list. In some ways, it is almost better to be rejected, so you can set your sights on new horizons. But, even with all these negative signs, do know that people transition from the wait list to acceptance. And just because you are placed on a wait list and are accepted doesn’t make you a weaker student. The many factors that determine an acceptance are incredibly complex. Once you’re in the door, you’re in. Finally, rememeber this: no matter where you end up at college, understand that you have the choice to make the most of your given situation. Don't let a faded dream turn into a living nightmare. You're better than that. And you will prevail, with the right mindset!

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