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What To Do When You Are Waitlisted

March madness means more than hoops and tournaments – it’s also the time of year when colleges release their admission decisions to applicants. Waiting can be a difficult hiatus, but nothing can surpass the anticipation of colleges’ actual decisions.  So what do you do when you are waitlisted?

Your hopes, expectations – they are all in an envelope. What do you do when you are neither fully accepted nor rejected? It’s a liminal space, being on the waitlist. But it’s not a completely passive one. Here are 5 ways to deal with being waitlisted at your top choice.

1. Research the college

Revisit your reasons for wanting to attend your top-choice school, and scrutinize how well the school fits you. A college will only meet your expectations and be a dream school if it fits the kind of student you are and the kind of work you plan to do. If you are waitlisted at choice A, but after a little more reading and research realize choice B – where you’ve been accepted – would fit you as well or better as choice A, you might want to think about where you’d like to attend college. Another point to research is – of course – your chances of acceptance as a waitlisted candidate. If you think waiting it out will be fruitless, make the mental decision to move on and commit to a different institution.

2. Contact the school briefly.

If the college is still your top choice, in a succinct, polite letter, let the college know you still plan to attend if offered admission. In this letter, brevity is key. It is important to let the admissions office know you are still excited about the school, but you must do so in a professional manner. If there are significant changes to your application it is ok to include that information. Anything else could be construed as pushy and annoying. When second-semester grades and awards come out, you can include that information in a follow-up to your application.

3. Keep your grades up – and stay involved

Maintaining grades is essential if you are waitlisted. You are not only holding steady, but if you perform exceptionally, you will stand out amongst those who might experience a lackadaisical whim of senioritis. Extracurricular activities are imperative. You might have the grades to get in – but perhaps admission counselors weren’t sure about how you tied in out-of-classroom work into your life. If you are already doing well and active, keep going! Losing ground will only hurt if you do get a chance at admission. And if you are continuously working hard, other rewards might come in the form of scholarships and grants.

4. Do not bribe the school – or the admissions counselors

Bribery can only hurt you. Offering a bribe will undermine your academic profile and reputation. Enough said.

5. Be patient, and make your own decision

It may be tempting to send your admissions counselor constant updates on your academic progress or extracurricular involvement. You might have tons of questions flooding in as the time to make a decision approaches and you are still on the waitlist. Just wait. If you’ve sent in a letter, updated grades and performance, and the college is aware of your intentions, try to compartmentalize the feeling of urgency. If you inundate an admissions office, you might come off as desperate rather than eager.


This post is titled, “What To Do When You Are Waitlisted.” It was written by Marta Casey, a writer on Top Test Prep’s team. To learn more about Top Test Prep’s programs, call (800) 501 – Prep or visit us online.

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