Get Accepted off a College Waitlist .jpg

How to Get Accepted off a College Waitlist

For high school seniors who recently received notification that they are on one or more college waitlists, the uncertainty can be palpable, causing confusion and even anger. Indeed, along with self-doubt and wondering “what did I do wrong,” a few questions may percolate to the surface

“Wouldn’t it be better to just be rejected?”

“Isn’t this the colleges’ way of letting me down easy?”

“Isn't it impossible to be accepted off a waitlist?”

The answer to all these questions is “no.”

First, let’s just spell some false rumors about waitlists.

1. Being placed on a waitlist does not mean you weren’t good enough to get in. On the contrary, it means you had the qualifications to get in, but that there were other applicants with equal or better qualifications to fill all the slots for admission. In this case, the term qualifications may refer to factors that go far beyond GPA and test scores. Colleges use a complex set of criteria when choosing there incoming class. These criteria can include special talent, special school connections, financial need, family history, race and ethnicity, demonstrated priorities and intentions, and demonstrated interest. Indeed, some colleges not only consider your anticipated major but also your interest in joining ROTC or other military related groups. Many will consider whether you are a first-generation college student, and if you qualify for federal funding such as PELL or other gran or sudents loan programs.

2. Your chance of being taken off a wait list varies dramatically from year to year. In some cases, a top college will take just a few students, while in other years the same college might take hundreds. Not only does it depend on the number of applications received, but also on factors such as yield rate, politics, and community circumstances. At some colleges, the chance of being taken off a waitlist can be far greater than the percentage of students accepted in the regular round of admission. In other cases, it will be much lower – though still not impossible.

3. Then there are the geographic factors. For example, a Midwest school such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern, or Wash U St Louis might be reluctant to accept a top candidate from Massachusetts believing that the student would be more likely to accept an offer from an Ivy League school that happens to be closer to home, or in a more desirable location. In this case, the Midwest school might place a student on the waitlist to see if they still have interest in attending after all their admission decisions have been received.

Next, let’s discuss how to get in off a waitlist

When colleges need to fill seats, they turn to their waitlist. Therefore, not only must you accept your place, you must also send a letter of continued interest, LOCI (if allowed) to be considered a serious waitlist candidate. If you are a student who was waitlisted at one of your top-choice colleges, we strongly suggest that you accept a place on the waitlist and follow whatever instructions are given through the college admission portal. In some cases, colleges neither require, nor will accept, additional information. In other cases, colleges encourage you to demonstrate your strong interest in attending. Some colleges want or invite you to write an essay. Some colleges will accept additional recommendations if you can still get them. Each college provides students with the information needed to take the next step toward admission off the waitlist. If the information pertaining to your placement on the waitlist is either ambiguous or nonexistent, you should err on the side of caution by indicating your acceptance of your place on the waitlist and your strong interest in attending the college. Of course, you should do this for every college you are interested in attending.

For some colleges, you can do this right through the portal. For others, you can send emails directly to the admission department. Still another pathway you can take is to contact your school’s college representative. In each of these cases, you should expound upon the reasons why you are still excited at the prospect of attending. You should be very specific about your intended program of study, right down to excruciating details about the major, the classes, the professors, the research, and any other factors that are relevant to each particular case. If you visited the college, you should gush about the experience, the architecture, the people, the friendliness of the students, and the impressive new buildings, cultures, traditions, etc. And just as you did on your application, you should extol your own virtues and why you are a perfect fit for the campus and culture they offer.

There is little or nothing to lose by going all out on your LOCI, and by going the extra mile to do something special, to impress colleges for which your candidacy falls squarely on the bubble (pardon the mixed metaphor). Provide them with updates on test scores, grades, or activities. Speak to them directly, if possible. He might even go so far as to visit, or revisit, the campus. For most colleges, the percentage of students taken off the waitlist is relatively small. That means that you are an underdog. And the theory behind being an underdog is that you must do something different, or better, than the favorites. It is time for you to pull out that Hail Mary pass you’ve been practicing or come up with other ways to move the needle in your favor.

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