Admissions Staffers Advise What to Do If You've Been Wait-Listed


If you have been wait-listed at the college you really want to attend, it can be a stressful time -- you're hoping to be admitted, but you have to think realistically about other college options that could be the right fit for you as well.

So, what should you do if you are wait-listed and still hope to gain admission at a particular college?

“The college offering you a place on its waiting list will typically give you specific instructions — perhaps even a reply mechanism — so that you can indicate whether or not you are requesting to remain on the waitlist," explains Scott Steinberg, vice president of university admissions at the University of New England. “Make sure you respond in the manner the college has requested and by the deadline indicated. If the college is your first choice and you plan to enroll if accepted, go ahead and indicate this, preferably in writing. It can't hurt, and it may help!"

One Email May Be Enough

Sometimes colleges don't send wait-listed students specific instructions about what they should do once they are informed that they are on the waitlist. In these cases, you certainly don't want to barrage a school with notes after you've been added to the waitlist, says Tina Brooks, senior assistant dean of admissions at Pomona College in Pomona, Calif. “If a college is vague or they don't say exactly what they accept, I would recommend sending one email. Typically, you need to let them know if you're still interested in remaining on the waitlist, so definitely do that."

If you have a personal connection to an admission office and you know who that person is by name, you could also reach out to the person personally. Brooks says that in that case, a friendly email is fine. “Keep it short," she advises. "Just reiterate your interest and that you remain hopeful and will look forward to hearing back from them. The general rule for this is to be friendly in order to show your interest, but not become a pest, so you don't want to overdo it," she says.

If there are any updates to your application such as current grades, updated standardized test scores or any significant extracurricular achievements, honors and awards, consider sending those to the institution. However, extra materials are usually not necessary except in specific circumstances.

If you want to send another recommendation from an additional teacher, counselor or coach, that is okay, but “more than that is probably overbearing," according to Brooks.

Keep Looking at Other Schools

If you are on the waitlist, you should continue to consider other schools that might be a good fit in the event that you aren't ultimately admitted to your first choice.

“If you have been wait-listed Early Decision or Early Action, for example, make sure that you submit other college applications by the appropriate admissions deadlines; if you are wait-listed in the spring, make sure that you place an enrollment deposit to another institution by May 1, if necessary," advises Steinberg.