One of my clients in this application cycle landed a spot on the waitlist at a highly selective school in early March. I spoke with the parents and we agreed to “wait on the waitlist” until all the colleges had released their decisions. So here we are in early April and it is time to talk about what to do if a college that you love has offered you a spot on their waitlist. Here are a few thoughts:
Sort through the list of schools that HAVE accepted you and figure out which one is the best in terms of academics, cost, location and overall fit. Attend an accepted students day at that school, spend time on their website, get in touch with anyone you know that attends this college and get REALLY excited about matriculating at this school. I am not kidding here; you must engage and get involved with a school that you can actually attend, not pine for a school that MIGHT take you off the waitlist. The number one path to peace when you are on a waitlist is to not be dependent on a yes, but be happily planning on attending another school. And remember that you must submit a deposit by May 1!
2. Accept the spot on the waitlist. Every school will have steps that you need to take to accept or deny a spot on the waitlist.
3. The waitlist will be used by the college to help sculpt the class. If they determine that more boys than girls have accepted spots, they will be looking to take girls off the waitlist. They will use the waitlist to fulfill institutional goals and there is no way of knowing what those goals are from year to year.
4. The waitlist can be a gentle no. Sometimes schools use the waitlist to avoid sending a denial letter to legacies.
5. Some schools put as many students on the waitlist as they admit. I am not kidding! In 2017, Dartmouth accepted 2083 students and put 2021 on the waitlist. Amherst accepted 1198 and offered the waitlist to 1144. And Pomona actually put more students on the waitlist when they accepted 760 students and sent waitlist letters to 934.
6. Waitlists do not start to move until May, but when they move, they move quickly. A few years back I had a client on the waitlist at a highly selective university. They got a call that they would need to commit to coming as a full pay student before the school would consider admitting them. You need to be prepared to make a swift decision.
7. Waitlist candidates will often not receive financial aid. Many schools have disbursed their funds and will use the waitlist to capture full-pay students.
8. You could get a call from an admissions office at the end of the summer when you are packing to attend a different college. This can be a challenge when you are mentally heading to another school. I have seen students turn down a late summer acceptance because they are already invested at another campus.
So what can you do to strengthen your position?
~Write a succinct letter highlighting why you are the ideal candidate for this school and that you will attend if admitted.
~In the letter above, add any new information, awards or achievements.
~Ask your school counselor to touch base with the school. They can reiterate your commitment to attend if admitted and possibly get a sense of where the school is with their enrollment and if they anticipate going to the waitlist.
Take a look at this fabulous piece from The Princeton Review with all sorts of waitlist statistics so you can get a sense of the statistics at different schools. Enjoy!