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You're on the Waitlist, now What?

It isn't like being accepted or rejected. It is somewhere in the middle and can be a little unclear as to what the next step in your path can be. You might be unsure about what your admission odds are, what you can do to improve your odds and if staying on the waitlist is even worthwhile.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to navigating the waitlist decision. Students should consider several steps before making a decision. Here are our some tips to keep in mind for improving your waitlist odds, exploring other options, and making the best decision that meets your needs and goals.


It is important to research and understand how university waitlists work before you decide what to do next. During the admissions process, universities have the difficult task of trying to predict how many students will ultimately enroll after being offered admittance. Waitlists are made up of students equally as qualified as admitted candidates, there just weren't enough spots in the freshmen class. Once a university has a good idea of who is accepting admittance, the school can begin to offer vacant spots to waitlist candidates. The university can then review the waitlist and admit students that meet their institutional needs. You can go to and look up the university and find out the percentage of waitlisted students actually admitted in a given year. This can give you a pretty good idea of what your chances are.


Now's the time to really ask yourself if this university is your first choice. After receiving acceptances from other institutions, some students may feel another institution meets their needs. Feelings about schools can and often do change during the admission process. That's okay, accept this and honor your current thoughts on each school. If this school is truly your first choice, remaining on the waitlist is the only way to potentially get admitted. However, if you are excited about another college acceptance you may choose to remove yourself from the waitlist. Whatever you decide, make sure you take the appropriate steps to inform the college whether or not you want to remain waitlisted.


Even if you decide to remain on a schools waitlist, it's important to go ahead and accept a spot at another college (unless you decide to take a gap year). Many waitlist decisions don't come until after the May 1 enrollment deadline so making sure you have another option is critical. Weigh all of your acceptances and avoid factoring in the waitlist school. If you have created a balanced list of best-fit colleges then you should be excited to attend any of the institutions on your list. Celebrate your enrollment, even if you are still waitlisted at another institution.


If you decide to remain on the waitlist you should send an update to the admissions office (unless a school specifically states that they do not wish to receive additional materials). This should include any accomplishments that occurred after a student submitted their application, as well as grades and AP test scores. You should also let them know about your passion for the college and your commitment to enrolling if admitted. With that in mind, it is important to remain realistic about your chances. The admission rates from waitlists usually are significantly lower than regular admittance rate, particularly at competitive colleges. It's okay to hold out hope but strive to also get excited about the opportunity to attend another school and that institution's unique learning experiences!

Unfortunately there is a lot of uncertainty about the waitlist process. However, if you follow these tips it can make the process a little more manageable.

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