When you’ve been waiting months for an official acceptance or rejection letter from a college, it can be disheartening to get waitlisted instead. Suddenly, you find yourself in a sort of limbo — uncertain whether or not you’ll be attending that college in the fall.
The good news is, just because you’ve been waitlisted doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. There are still ways for you to help increase your chances of admission.
What It Means to be Waitlisted
When you’re waitlisted, it means the school you applied to has not decided whether to admit or reject you based on your application. You will need to wait a little longer for a final decision.
The main reason schools waitlist applicants is that they want to see how many accepted students will agree to their offer and enroll in the fall. If it turns out that more students than usual reject the offer, the school will have enough room to accept those on the waiting list.
Basically, you probably would have been accepted if fewer students had applied. And you might still be accepted if fewer than usual decide to enroll.
What You Can Do While You Wait
As you might guess, being waitlisted means you will be, well, waiting for a while. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and worry about whether you’ll get in.
Instead, you can take matters into your own hands and increase your chance of being accepted.
Start by continuing to get good grades, even in the last semester of your senior year. This is when many students slack off, but colleges still take final grades into account. So continue to work hard in school, and as soon as you know your grades, send them to the college that waitlisted you.
If time allows, you may want to consider taking the SAT or ACT again too, especially if you think you could improve your scores.
Your next step is to show the college that you’re still interested in attending. You can do this by keeping in touch with any recruiters who represent the school as well as the admissions office itself. Did you win an academic award or honor? Let the admissions office know! Also, consider visiting the campus again and, if you haven’t already, set up an interview.
It might also benefit you to send the school an additional recommendation letter, but only if the admissions office informs you that this is something they would benefit from receiving.
Remember, this is an extremely busy time for admissions officers and although it’s important to keep in contact with the school, there is such a thing as over-doing it. After all, you don’t want to be that annoying student who’s constantly calling and emailing — this can come across as disrespectful.
Stay in touch, but don’t bombard the admissions office with constant email updates and phone calls.
Explore Your Options
While being waitlisted is not an outright college rejection, it’s also not an acceptance to the school of your choice. Although it may be difficult, you should prepare for the possibility that you will not get in.
You can start by researching the school to find out how many waitlisted students eventually got accepted in previous years. This can give you some idea of your chances of acceptance.
Whether the percentage of students who got in is high or low, your next step should be to consider your other options when it comes to college. Hopefully you applied to at least a few others, including one or more safety schools.
At the end of the day, you need to decide how important it is for you to attend the school where you’ve been waitlisted. After hearing back from all the colleges you’ve applied to, take the time to really evaluate each prospective school.
Many students find it helpful to revisit those schools they have gained acceptance to. Such events as Accepted Student’s Day can be extremely helpful when making your decision. You may also want to participate in an overnight visit where you can really experience what it’s like to attend a particular school.
If you ultimately decide that the right school for you is the college where you’ve been waitlisted, consider possible alternative routes of reaching your end goal. For example, it may work in your favor to attend another school for the fall and then transfer to your first choice school in the spring when the application pool is smaller.
Another option is to take a gap year and apply again the following year.
Stay positive and keep in mind that any college experience it what you make it. Even though you may have been waitlisted by your first choice school, you may find that your second and third choice schools are just as good a fit.