Waitlisted. Now What?

By The Dunbar Team


As more students apply to more colleges, it becomes increasingly difficult for colleges to predict their yield. In recent years, many colleges have placed more students on their waitlist, in some cases 25% or more of applicants, which they can go to if they need more students to fill their class. Historically, the number of students who are accepted from the waitlist varies from year to year and from college to college but usually it is a small percentage of students who opted to stay on the waitlist; in some years it might be none. The good news is that, while waitlist offers are certainly not guarantees, they do indicate that the college likes you and might accept you if they have room.

If a college that is high on your list offers you a place on their waitlist, reply immediately as colleges have been known to admit candidates from waitlists in direct relation to the order replies come in. When you reply, it is critical to include a note expressing your continued strong interest in the college; if it is your first choice, say so (and be sure your school counselor is aware so they can confirm that should the college contact them). In addition, should you have new information worth submitting to update your profile – a new set of strong grades, another teacher recommendation, etc., be sure to mention that in your note or ask your guidance counselor to pass the information on to the colleges. Avoid sending excessive new information / recommendations or sending multiple emails to colleges to make your case; that can be counter-productive.

If you are placed on more than one waitlist, rank them in order of preference. You may be contacted and asked for an immediate decision. If you do not want to remain on a particular waitlist, notify that college as soon as possible as it will reduce the waiting period for someone else.

It is important to realize a waitlist means what it says, “You have to wait.” You should not expect to hear from colleges until the May reply deadlines approach. It may take longer, or they may invite you to start in January instead of September; or they might not accept you at all. If you are offered a spot and decide to accept it, notify the college where you initially deposited, as well as any other waitlist colleges, that you will be enrolling elsewhere. Remember that you may not deposit at more than one college at the same time.

Lastly, while we encourage you to accept a waitlist offer if it’s from a college high on your list, you need to be realistic about your chances. It’s best to assume you will be attending the college where you deposited and become excited by it since that is most probably where you will go.

We wish you the best of luck!