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Getting waitlisted from your number one school choice can be difficult. Logically, you know that it’s a better outcome than an outright rejection, but the uncertainty around getting waitlisted can ratchet up anxiety during an already stress-filled college admissions process.


It’s not unheard of to be admitted after getting placed on a waitlist. In 2013, about 1 in 3 waitlisted students was eventually admitted to the school of their choice, according to the National Association of College Admissions Counseling. Odds were slightly better at public schools than at private ones, the report found.

Still, you don’t have to just sit around waiting for the admissions office to let you know that you’ve been admitted to the school. Follow these steps to help manage the anxiety.

Find out what your odds are

Most admissions offices can tell you what percentage of students their school admits from the waitlist. You can also look up school-by-school numbers at TheCollegeBoard.org.

Ask the admissions office the deadline by which they let students know whether they’ll be let in. This varies by school but typically takes place in May or June, after the deposit deadline for admitted students to enroll. You may need to accept an offer elsewhere before you’ve heard back from your top choice school. If that’s the case, you’ll need to decide whether you still want to go to the school that waitlisted you, since there may be financial drawbacks such as a lost deposit at another school.

Re-evaluate the schools that did accept you

Don’t miss out on enrolling in another school while you’re waiting to hear from the school that waitlisted you. Make another round of college visits and compare the offers that you have received to see which of those schools might be the best fit and take steps to accept enrollment there.

Be sure to keep your grades up in the mean time, since the admissions department of the school that waitlisted you may want to see an updated transcript before making their ultimate decision.

Decide whether you’re okay with waiting

As the name suggests, being placed on a waitlist means that there will be a delay before you find out whether or not you’ve ultimately been accepted to the school. If you’d prefer not to deal with that uncertainty, move on to the other schools on your list. You can accept admissions at another school and withdraw if you get off the waitlist at your first choice, although you may forfeit your deposit.

Get in touch with the school

If you want to remain on the waitlist, formally notify the school that you’re still interested in enrolling. You’ll want to send a letter of intent that includes information about any recent achievements since you sent in your application.

Reach out to your contacts in the admissions office to request an interview (or a follow-up interview if you’ve already had one), so that you can personally show the school why you’re a great candidate. While it’s important to let the school know you’re still interested, you shouldn’t follow up too often. Regular calls or e-mails to the busy admissions office could hurt, rather than help, your chances.

Carefully weighing your options after being waitlisted can help you make a decision that’s best for you. Whether or not you ultimately attend the school that waitlisted you, this step is just part of your college selection process.

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