It is no easy thing to be a high school senior waitlisted at his or her top choice college or university. Waiting lists create a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Some schools never need to go to their waiting lists to fulfill their desired enrollment numbers. Other colleges may invite a handful of hopefuls from a waitlist of several hundred students. Still others may invite a considerable number of waitlisted students to join the incoming class. Both strategically and emotionally, it can be difficult for students and parents to know how to handle waitlist situations!
For the student motivated to attempt to change a waitlist situation into an offer of admission, here are some tips:
Firstly, once included on the waitlist, the student should contact the college’s office of admission by phone and by email to express strong interest. If this is the top choice school, by all means say so! If a college goes to its waitlist to admit additional students, the admissions staff would rather do so knowing that they are likely to get a “yes” to the extended offer. Make it known that you are one of those students in hopes of rising toward the top of the list.
Secondly, ask if the wait list is ranked. If so, ask where you stand in the ranking. If you are told that you are in the bottom third of the list, for example, this can help you gauge the likelihood of admission.
Thirdly, ask if there is additional documentation that you could send to aid your cause. For example, sometimes a college will appreciate knowing about additional honors, high grades or other accomplishments that a student may have achieved since their original application. Or perhaps an additional letter of recommendation could have an impact. The bottom line: ask!
No matter how encouraging a college representative may be about the likelihood that they will go to their waitlist, it is critical that a student NEVER count on this! A student should always accept an offer of admission (and send in an enrollment deposit) before May 1 to a college or university that has actually admitted them. Remember: being selected off a wait list is no sure bet!
From an emotional standpoint, a student and their family should evaluate their personal tolerance levels when it comes to waitlist situations. For example, although most waitlist decisions are made by colleges by the end of May or June, a last-minute offer could “rock the boat” of one student who is now already committed to a different school, while not fazing another.
Most financial aid for paying for college comes from the colleges themselves, rather than from outside scholarships. Students and families should be aware that by the time an admissions offer comes from a waitlist situation, merit and/or need-based financial aid may be less available, as significant monies have already been dispensed by colleges to students admitted earlier. That said, it is sometimes possible to still negotiate an improved financial aid package. College admission and financial aid specialists like myself can assist in the process.
The best advice? The old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For students in the 9th, 10th or 11th grade, a qualified college admissions consultant can help students and families navigate the college admissions process, avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. Students who are accepted to their top choice schools to begin with can avoid the aggravations which waitlist situations bring!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Sandra Eller is an experienced College Admissions Consultant with a warm, engaging style. She works individually with students of all ability levels, throughout high school, to maximize admissions prospects at colleges that are a “best fit” for students academically, socially, emotionally and financially. Dr. Eller can be reached at LessStressCollege@gmail.com or (585) 427-0270. For more information, check out her website at www.LessStressCollege.com. © Copyright Sandra J. Eller. All rights reserved.