Jill Haley: Help, I’ve been waitlisted!
March is the time when students find out if their college applications have been accepted or rejected. Many students will be notified of a third option — that they have been put on the dreaded wait list. According to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, roughly one-third of colleges and universities use wait lists. And these last few years, with the uncertainty of who will attend because of COVID, colleges have put increased number of students on the list.
If you are put on a college wait list it means that you have the desired qualifications for the college, but they did not have enough room to admit you. Colleges use wait lists as insurance. After admitted students decide if they will be attending, if there are any spots, they will take wait-listed students. Wait lists are frustrating because they put students and their families in a state of limbo. There are no uniform rules for college wait lists and each college has their own policies regarding their list.
How many students are taken off the wait list varies from year to year and the most elite colleges have historically taken few students off the list. Last year was different, when many students opted to stay closer home due to the pandemic many slots opened up. These discrepancies from year to year make predicting the chance of getting in nearly impossible.
Most colleges do not rank their lists so students cannot find out “what place they are on the list.” Who is admitted off a wait list is an internal decision made by college personnel and each college has their own policies.
Students will typically not be notified whether they have been accepted off the list until after mid-May. This is usually well after the required deadline to accept admittance at another college. Therefore, it is especially important to look at the colleges that did accept you and make a deposit on a second-choice college to ensure you a place in the incoming freshman class.
Can you improve your odds of getting off the wait list? It is important to let them know it is still your first choice and that you will attend if accepted. Some colleges will accept additional letters of recommendation or any new information that has become available since the application deadline.
Making an additional visit to the college and talking to the admissions office is welcome at some colleges and not at others. But students should look at each school’s policies regarding visits or additional information.
Warning: Parents should not be part of this process, the college wants to see students advocating for themselves. Waiting to hear if you have been accepted off the wait list is frustrating, but bugging the admissions office wont help, and it could hurt your chances.
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What factors should a student look at when investigating colleges?