Best Advice for the Wait List: Part II

We're back with more advice about the wait list. As one of our counselors put it yesterday, being on a wait list is like flying standby. You haven’t been accepted and you haven’t been denied. You’re in limbo, and that can be stressful. But there are some things you can and should do as you decide whether or not to accept a spot on a waitlist and, at the same time, make plans to move forward.

Here's more guidance from the high school college counselors who answered our Question of the Month: "What is your best advice for students who are waitlisted?" 

Rafael S. Figueroa
Dean of College Guidance
Albuquerque Academy
Albuquerque, New Mexico

You need to look at this situation in two different ways, simultaneously.

1.    Pick a college that admitted you.

Tell them you are attending and send in your deposit. Put the colleges that waitlisted you out of your mind. Move on. Get excited about the college you have chosen, and focus on the great experience you will have there.

2.    Don¹t give up on a waitlist college, if you really want to attend.

Let the college know that you remain very interested. Update them on any new information about you that is relevant to your admission. Be patient. Given the way that waitlist offers trickle down the chain of different schools, offers might not come until July or even August.

I have had students admitted very late in the summer to a college they really wanted. I have had students who received disappointing results get admitted to four or five colleges off the waitlist. Some never get the offer they wait for.

And what do you do if an offer of admission comes?

1.    Choose the best school for you.

Do not be blinded by either resentment that you weren¹t admitted right away or by a false sense that the new school MUST be better because it was harder to get into. Being asked is nice, but carefully compare the offer with what you have in hand.

2.    Make the most out of the college that you choose.

Waitlist, early decision, single choice whatever, none of that matters once you enroll. This is YOUR college, and nobody knows or cares how you were admitted. Enjoy it and have an amazing experience.

Maybe there is somebody out there who waited for the chance you have been given, and it never came.


Dan Gin
College and Career Counselor
Niles West High School
Skokie, Illinois

College decisions will be arriving in your mailbox in the next few weeks.  This may be a joyous occasion, or one that causes a little anxiety since you may not know your future.  Hopefully, most of the schools will respond positively to your application and this will all be a rewarding experience.
However, some students will hear the four most dreaded words in college admissions "You have been Waitlisted."  If this is your situation, you have two choices. 

1.  Choose a college where you have been accepted 


2.  Accept your position on the waitlist. 

If you choose to remain on the waitlist, there are specific things you can do:

1.  Respond to the office of admission to accept your position on the waitlist.  Let the college know you are still interested in attending their institution.

2.  Provide any new information to the college: A higher ACT/SAT score, 7th semester grades, recent accomplishments.

3.  Improve your senior grades.  Although this might be difficult, proving to the college that you are still serious about your education will continue to pay dividends in the future.

If the college chooses not to take you off of the waitlist, take your talents to another institution and enjoy your college experience.  It is not the end of the world, but a chance to begin your college legacy.  


Alice Kleeman
College Advisor
Menlo-Atherton High School

Atherton, California 

This year once again a fairly substantial number of you may find yourselves on college wait lists.  Here is some information past seniors found useful as they coped with this uncertainty.

Colleges are still responding to two major changes that have affected their yields in the past several years (yield being the number of students who choose to attend after being accepted).  Both the increase in colleges offering Early Decision or Early Action programs, and the increased number of college applications in general (students applying to more colleges than ever before) have caused colleges to be uncertain about their yields.  Whereas in the past a college might have been able to predict for many years running that its yield would be, say, 27% of those admitted, now colleges are less certain how many students will accept their offers of admission.  A smart college will say to itself, "Let's accept a smaller number of students, put other qualified/excellent applicants on our wait list, see what we get in response to our offers, and then choose students from the wait list to round out our class."  Most colleges, rather than putting wait-listed students in ranked order for admission if there is space, wait to assess what they need (another swimmer, another graphic artist, another student from Nebraska—whatever) before choosing students from wait lists.

If you find yourself on a wait list for a school you do not have any intention of attending, PLEASE notify the school immediately that you would like to be removed from the list.  Remember, that school is someone's first choice.  If you do still wish to be considered, notify the college immediately by using whichever response mechanism the college has requested.  If you have any NEW information (awards, honors, achievements in any academic or extracurricular area), let the colleges that allow such updates know.  But do not bombard the colleges with reiterations of what was already in your application.  Meanwhile, unfortunately, you will need to operate on the assumption that you will not be admitted from the wait list, and make other plans by accepting another college's offer of admission by the Universal Reply Date (May 1).  If a school where you are wait-listed admits you later and you decide to go, you will forfeit a deposit (generally no more than $200 or so), but you will be attending the college of your choice!

And if you have questions about this or any other aspect of your college-selection process, ask your high school college or guidance counselor!

For more information about waitlists see these previous posts from True Admissions:

               Waitlisted? What to Consider…

               Waitlisted? Next Steps...

               Waitlisted? Questions to Ask

Our experts' responses reflect not only the wisdom of their experience, but also their schools' philosophies and policies. There is a great deal of diversity in American education and some of that will be on display here. Make sure to check with your own school about their policy on any particular subject discussed here.

We would like to extend a special thank you to the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS), who partnered with us on this post, and in particular counselors Marie Bigham of Greenhill School, Jody Sweeney of William Penn Charter School, and Sarah Markhovsky of Severn School.



Great point! And if you've seen the movie, Monsters U looks like a pretty great place. Christine VanDeVelde

My daughter apply to UC and how can I get the information about college acceptant as her father and I were graduate from UV

Add comment