Being waitlisted for college can be frustrating and confusing news to receive while you’re getting ready to decide where to enroll. You wonder why you were waitlisted, what you could have done differently, and what you should do now that you know you’re not necessarily getting in. All of these questions are amplified if the college in question is your top choice and you really can’t see yourself going to a different school. Although it may seem like it, getting waitlisted at your top college is not the end of the world.
1. Don’t Lose Hope – Being Waitlisted Isn’t the Same as Being Deferred
First of all, being waitlisted does not mean all is lost. Being waitlisted is not the same thing as being deferred and there’s a big difference. When you get deferred there can be a number of reasons why. Likely the reason is that the college has not finished reviewing your application to enroll and need to “defer” their decision to a later date. So that means you haven’t been accepted and they need more time to review your file and the other applications they’ve received for the upcoming semester. But if you get waitlisted, that means the college has reviewed your file and accepted you into the school. However, they’ve reached their limit of “accepted” students so you’re put onto a waitlist until a spot opens up – if one does at all. There’s a better chance of being admitted into the school if you’re waitlisted versus deferred but every school is different. There are also a few things you can do when waitlisted to help your cause.
2. What You Can Do
When waitlisted there are a few ways you can try to help your cause of getting off that list and admitted to the school. You may try reaching out to the school, such as to the admittance office, and letting them know you’re still interested in attending even though you’re on the waitlist. This possibly gives them a name of who to admit once it’s time to grab someone off the waitlist. But this doesn’t mean you should spam them with emails and calls frequently. Find that line between calling to let them know you’re available and straight-up pestering them day in and day out. The overall big dilemma with waitlisting and college admissions, in general, is that the applying students don’t want to be stuck going somewhere they don’t want, or nowhere at all if they don’t get into their top schools, so they apply to many different schools. And on the other hand, colleges don’t want to over admit students and have to worry about housing them all but also don’t want to under-admit students so they lose money and such. This becomes a circular issue because colleges will admit students who apply but it’s a toss-up if the student actually wants to attend that college or they just applied to it as a safety school. So the waitlist will usually only become usable when the admitted students list contains a number of them who are actually planning to attend a different school. All schools are different in terms of admitting waitlist applications so do some research and see how your top school compares to others. Some may frequently take waitlisted students while others may historically never admit more than one or two. All of this, however, does not mean you should lose hope and start to slack off in school. Sometimes colleges will look at grades once more to determine who to pull off the waitlist so keep up your hard work and show that you’re a consistently good student. Another huge action you can take when waitlisted is to not give up but also to keep your options open.
3. Keep Your Options Open – Keep Researching
Although on the waitlist, be sure to keep your options open as you get closer and closer to college decision day in May. Your top school may seem perfect but there are so many good schools out there many of which you probably haven’t even heard of. If there are certain aspects of your top school that you think exist nowhere else then that’s probably not true. If your rationale for your “perfect college” is the kind of program you want, elite status of the school, location, sports, or anything along those lines then it’s likely you can find a similar enough school somewhere else. If money is a big contributing factor then that’s another issue that needs to be discussed with your parents or whoever is paying for your tuition. But don’t let yourself get backed into a corner because you only apply to a few schools but would really only go to one of them. Keep researching schools and find a solid backup school you’d be happy to attend if you never get off that dreaded waitlist.
4. Have a Backup Plan & Be Happy Where You End Up
Yes, it’s understandable that your top school may seem like “the only school you want to go to,” but if you’re waitlisted it’s time to be reasonable. Depending on the school, there might be a good chance you’re not getting into your top college which means you need a solid plan B. This might mean you need to say yes and admit to your backup school while still on the waitlist for your top college. In one possible outcome, you’ll get admitted from the waitlist to your top college which would be great and the negative is that you’ll lose the deposit from the backup school you accepted to. The other possibility is that you never got off the waitlist for your top school, which means you’ll end up attending the backup school you accepted. But if planned correctly you should be happy to be going to that backup school and understand that you can have a great time and get a quality education at a number of different colleges. Then in the worst-case scenario, if you really don’t like your backup school you’re attending then you can apply to transfer to your top-choice college and go from there. At the end of the day just try to remember that college is what you make it. The decisions you make and the attitude you take with you will make all the difference. Have a plan, be responsible, and enjoy your life in college to the fullest wherever you end up.
Have any suggestions or experiences in being waitlisted for a top school? Share in the comments below!
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I have a passion for helping others and see journalism as a great way to reach and impact many people. Born in Texas but raised in the San Francisco Bay Area! Then with a short detour in Boulder, Colorado to get my bachelor's in Journalism with a minor in political science. I'm a determined, motivated individual striving to make a difference in this world. I have hopes to play a role in the continued development of journalism and in maximizing efforts to inform and inspire the public. Check out my articles on Society19!