How college waitlist works

Understanding How the College Waitlist Works

Nobody likes to be on the waitlist, especially if you don’t understand how the college waitlist works.

After doing all that’s necessary for your college application, it’s now time to get a decision from the different colleges and universities you have applied. The entire process of working hard for an outstanding SAT score, ensuring that your extracurricular activities are on point, maintaining stellar grades, sweeping your interviewers off their feet, and crafting the most compelling college essay, it’s now down to the colleges to let you know what they think about all that you have done.

Understandably, this can be a period of apprehension for any student. Having to wait for a group of strangers to decide whether all your efforts are good enough can be quite scary and a rejection letter can be quite devastating. Of course, oftentimes, that acceptance letter finally comes, and it makes all the efforts of times past worth the try but then there’s that one “in-between”, “neither here nor there” letter that comes and few people know what to do with it. It’s called the waitlist. Phew! Now that’s one ambiguous term to many a student. Today, we are going to discombobulate the ambiguity and get you to understand the concept and help you figure out your game plan if your name appears on the waitlist. Are ready to learn how the college waitlist works? Keep reading.

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Confirming You Are on the College Waitlist

In the first place, how do you know that the school has put you on the waitlist?

Here’s how the college waitlist works.

You know that you are on the waitlist if what you read on your admission decision goes something along the lines of the following:

“Your application presented compelling academic and personal attributes and achievements, and we would like to continue to evaluate your credentials should space become available at one of our campuses.”

We culled the above from an actual admissions decision letter issued to a student by the New York University in the Fall of 2015.

Perhaps, the saddest thing about most waitlist notification letters is that they do not give you any explanation, however little, as to why your application was denied. Neither do they mention any areas where you could have done better. Applicants who find themselves in the waitlist, pretty much like guys who find themselves in the friend zone, can often become depressed and confused as to their next move. Today, we clear that confusion. Walk with us.

The Process of Wait listing

In a bit, we will get to the reason behind putting applicants on the college waitlist and how it works. However, before then, it’s important that we take you through the process first. So you can fully appreciate what it means to appear on the waitlist and the decisions you need to make.

When students are on a waitlist, it means that the school affirms that they are qualified to attend the college in question. However, despite their qualification, they still haven’t received a definite offer of admission. To get into that year’s matriculating class in that college, such student will have to hope and pray that a spot opens up. That is after the school hears back from the accepted students.

In most cases, most universities do not take students off the waitlist until after the May 1st decision deadline when they must have heard back from all the accepted students. Therefore, regardless of being wait-listed at your preferred university, still ensure that you pay in a deposit. Also make plans to enroll into a university that offered you admission.

It’s a downer that most times, you may not have high chances of getting into the school after being on a waitlist. Top-tier universities, especially, only accept very few of their wait-listed applicants each year. Sometimes, they even accept none. But then again, since there is no fee or penalty attached to remaining on a university’s waitlist, then you might as well push your luck. Especially if the school in question is your dream school. It might be worth a try to hold on to hope.

That said, please keep in mind that to remain on your university’s waitlist, you’d have to take some steps to secure your spot. Generally, you might have to email the admissions officer of the university. In some cases, click a button on the application portal that acknowledges your desire to remain on the university’s waitlist. If you don’t take these steps, they will most likely remove you from the waitlist. The school may never reconsider your application for admission. Sadly, that’s how the college waitlist works.

General Reasons Some Applicants are Wait-listed

Please, the first thing you must disabuse your mind from is the belief that you were wait-listed because you weren’t good enough. That’s never the case. That’s not how the college waitlist works. If you weren’t good enough for them, they would have rejected your application from the get-go. Being on the waitlist means that the university agrees that you are a very well qualified applicant. However, there might have been something in your application that held them from accepting you.

There are many possible application flaws that could make an applicant get waitlisted.

1. Insufficient Extracurriculars

For instance, maybe your extracurriculars aren’t as many as other accepted applicants. Or maybe you didn’t put in enough hours in volunteering or community service. Standardized test scores are another point. Or then again, it could be that your essays weren’t as eloquent or concise as they would have expected.

2. Institutional Need

Again, many times colleges offer admissions based on something referred to as “institutional need”. See how it works. Say, for instance, a school’s swimming team has all the graduating seniors. The school will be hard pressed to give more slots to swimmers as opposed to others who do not meet that particular need. You get it now? So even though, most schools would tell you that they give your application holistic view. It’s often only a half-truth cos when it comes down to it most times, it’s those small parts that would count. You find this happening most commonly with the elite and more competitive schools.

3. Admission Committee’s Preference

Another reason why applicants are put on the waitlist is if their applications do not stand out as special to the admissions committee. That’s how the college waitlist works. Perhaps, they weren’t able to use their applications to properly highlight what makes them unique.

Yet another reason an applicant might be wait-listed might be because the admissions committee didn’t see the applicant as a right fit for the school. Most times, it’s just a feeling more than something you did or didn’t do.

Whatever the reason though the differences between wait-listed and accepted students are often quite small and arbitrary. The question you should now be asking yourself is “what next?’

READ: After Your College Interview, Then What?

How to Get Off the Waitlist

It one thing to know how the college waitlist works, and it’s another thing to know how to get off the waitlist. The first step to getting off the waitlist is to remain on the waitlist. What that means is that you express your desire to remain on the college’s waitlist by filling an online form or sending an email.

Objectively Criticise Your Own Application

The next thing you want to do after that is to critically look at your own application. Go through your essays again, and give your resume a second look. In fact, run through your entire application again from the top. Read your application with the eyes of a stranger and try to find out what you might have missed or what impression you might have unknowingly created. If you can’t spot anything, hand it a friend, teacher, or your parents. They might be able to point out some things.

Make sure you zero in on the obvious areas of weakness in your application, if any. Whether it’s extracurriculars, or less than stellar test scores, or any other thing; focus on them and understand them.

If you know anyone that was accepted into that same school, compare your application with such person(s). Then, try to see the pattern that forms that your own application probably did not follow.

Ask Critical Questions

Lastly, ask yourself if you’d really have been a good fit in that school. Be very honest in your reply,What is that college best known for? What have their alumni done? Do you see yourself fitting into that mold? If you don’t, it’s possible that the admissions committee saw it too and therefore decided to waitlist you. For instance, if you’re more reserved than outgoing and you apply to a school like UC Berkeley, you just might be wait-listed. That’s because the admissions committee might not see how you’d fit in with their more aggressive student body settings.

If you’ve been able to criticize your own application objectively, then you can try to remedy it. If you can remedy, then you can work your way through the college waitlist. You can write a waitlist letter or contact the university by another means. In that correspondence, and with what you have now learned about why you might have been wait-listed, ensure that you mention achievements that could boost your application accordingly. Also, if you’ve made any other achievements since the time of your application, don’t fail to mention them too. It is pointless reflecting on your shortcomings if you do not plan to do anything about them consequently.

After This, What Next?

Well, you sure cannot just sit by and twiddle your thumbs hoping for a chance spot opening after an accepted applicant turns down his/her offer. After indicating your interest to remain on the waitlist, be “aggressive”. There will always be steps you can take to spin the ball in your favour. But it won’t just come to you. You’d have to go out and find them.

One of the steps you can take is to reach out to the admissions office and find out about your chances of getting in. Some colleges will help you with the needed information, others might not. But since it’s a risk worth taking, go for it. Worst case scenario, you get a polite evasion of the answer.

Another step might be to write the admissions office. In your letter mention your willingness to enroll if you’re offered the admission, eventually. In that letter, ensure that you include any supplemental information that could help remedy any flaw your application might have presented.

So, there you have it. A breakdown of the wait listing process is and how to go about it if you find yourself on a waitlist. Now, you know how the college waitlist works. Remember, if it happens. Do not despair. Just take those steps like we advised and we will see you at the top. We hope you enjoyed exploring with us, cos we did. As usual, sharing is caring so, please, don’t forget to share!

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