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You’ve Been Waitlisted… Now What?

You’ve Been Waitlisted… Now What?

One of the most difficult feelings in life is wanting something, such as attending a particular college, and then having your desires denied. But when that happens, you can move on to identify a new goal. When you’re waitlisted for your first-choice school, the feelings can be doubly frustrating. You aren’t denied admission, but you aren’t exactly accepted yet either. You aren’t progressing toward the goal you originally wanted, but it’s tough to move along and set a new goal.

Waistlist frustration is a unique feeling, for sure. If you receive the disappointing (and yet, at the same time, strangely encouraging) news that you’ve been placed on your top choice college’s waitlist, take these steps to work through your feelings.

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Waitlists are extremely common, as about 40 percent of four-year colleges use them. Being waitlisted actually means that you met admissions criteria; there just wasn’t enough room in the upcoming freshman class to accept everyone. Colleges use waitlists to put desirable candidates on hold, because they know some of their new students won’t follow through with enrollment.

Estimate your chances of getting in. On average, about 30 percent of waitlisted students are eventually admitted. This depends upon the school, of course, and how selective they are. Your waitlist letter might give you a ranking or tell you that you’re in a particular pool of candidates. If not, call the admissions office and ask if they have a priority list, and where you fall on that list.

Reserve a space at another school. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan. At the very least, taking this step will relieve some of your anxiety.

Make a decision. You might be asked to decide whether you want to remain on your first-choice school’s waitlist. Several factors might influence your decisions, such as your rank on the priority list and financial aid. If you’re depending on financial aid in order to attend the college, keep in mind that aid might run thin as the upcoming school year approaches. Some schools give out limited financial aid packages.

If you decide to stay on the waitlist, maintain regular communications with your admissions representative. You can also send updates for your file, such as new recommendation letters or notifications of any new awards or achievements. Don’t nag them, but be persistent and provide relevant information.

Plan to attend your backup school. It’s okay keep your dream on the back burner, but in the meantime take realistic steps toward attending your backup school. If your first-choice school never accepts you, you are well prepared to attend a great school that has wanted you from the beginning.