College Waitlist | The Hardest Part?

Wide awake at 4:30 in the morning on a Sunday, I can't stop thinking about - what else?! - the conundrum of college admissions waitlists.   I recall the sentiment of a student with whom I worked with a couple of years ago.  She was an accomplished young woman academically, athletically, and in her activities.  Unfortunately, she was waitlisted by her top choice college.   She wasn't so much disappointed as annoyed about the indecisiveness on the part of the college.  It seemed like a cop-out to her.   

And so, at 4:30 in the morning, I am strangely inspired by the wisdom of Tom Petty.

"The waiting is the hardest part." 

As if waiting for an initial decision wasn't hard enough, if you are placed on a waitlist, you are asked to wait some more.  My advice:  don't just wait.   If you chose to accept your place on the waitlist, there are other things you can and should do while you wait. 

  • First of all, if the school that waitlisted you is your top choice, let them know that. Visit again. Write a sincere note telling them that they are your top choice despite the fact that you have been accepted by other colleges.
  • If you have additional academic or leadership accomplishments since your application, you also want to be sure that the college's admissions office is aware of them. Include this information in your sincere note or provide documentation.
  • Finally, in this economy, it doesn't hurt to let them know if you are able and willing to pay the full tab to attend their institution. Admissions offices have long prided themselves on being need-blind in making decisions, but this year the ability to pay is likely to be factor that could tip the scales in your favor.

One thing to keep in mind is that not many colleges use "ranked" wait lists per se.  Often, if you are waitlisted you are actually part of a wait pool.  You want to distinguish yourself from that pool without redundantly submitting the same information you put in your application and without being a nag.  So don't remind them of all of the things they already know about you and don't call everyday (or have lots of people calling on your behalf).   Write your sincere note, visit the campus again, and then....

You need to move on so that you are not just waiting.  Put down a deposit at one of the wonderful institutions that did accept you and embrace it as if you are going to be a student there.  Because the likelihood is that you will be matriculating when all is said and done.  Although projections are that more students will be accepted this year off of waitlist than is typical, that still only translates to an increase on a mere 15% rate (the 2007 rate).  It will still be the minority who find themselves moving from waiting to celebrating. 

"Even the losers get lucky sometimes."  

Let me clarify; I don't think of students who are waitlisted as "losers."  My point here is that you may consider it a "loss" that you have been waitlisted.  There are at least two ways that I can think of, though, in which you might end up being the lucky one. 

The first, of course, is that you are accepted off of the waitlist by the college of your dreams; you enroll and live happily ever after. 

The second is still a "happily ever after scenario," but at a college that ends up being even better suited for you than the one that waitlisted you; a college that appreciated your accomplishments and individuality in the first place.  A college that recognized your potential and knew you would fit into their community.  Imagine if you had not ended up on the waitlist at that other college.  You never would have discovered this wonderful place.

Tags: college waitlist, education trends, educational consultants, communication, outcomes, college, admissions process, applying to college

We help kids, teens, and young adults in crisis. Can we help you or your family?
Contact Us