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What to Do If You’re Waitlisted

Dear Dr. Kat: I got a thin envelope yesterday. I did not get into my dream college. At least, I got wait-listed. What do I do now? What are the chances of my getting off the wait list? – Sad Senior

Sad Senior,

According to a survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) in 2002, your chance of being accepted from a wait list is roughly one in five. This will vary from college to college. If you don’t have this information from your college, call your admission officer. Also, find out if the wait list is ranked and when they might be going to the waitlist. Some schools will go as early as April. Others will wait until late July. Before you contact your colleges, make sure your dream school is still your first choice. Even if it is, you must choose to enroll at your next choice school as you don’t know if you’ll be accepted from the waitlist. Secure your spot at your second choice school by sending your non-refundable deposit. Know that you’ll lose it if you decide to enroll elsewhere. If there are spots available, you can enhance your chances of being accepted off the waitlist by doing the following:

  • Write a letter to the admissions office. Be upbeat in your approach. If the college remains your first choice, write that if you get in, you will definitely attend.
  • In the letter, have a paragraph explaining how you see yourself at this school. Include the courses you would like to pursue, the professors you want to study/research with and the activities you would participate in. Show how you would enhance the school community.
  • Be sure to update the college on everything important you have been doing in school and in the community since you submitted your application. Tell the college of any honors, awards, or new standardized test scores that you have received.
  • If you don’t get off the wait list, you can apply as a transfer student if you are unhappy at the college you choose to attend freshman year.

Remember, college is what you make of it. Although you have a dream school, if you have done your research well, there are many schools that can fit your needs where you’ll be a happy and productive student.

Good luck!