Waitlisted: What Do You Do Next?


Avery Ellis, Staff Writer

As many seniors know, the college application cycle for this year put many students in what I like to call the college purgatory, otherwise known as a waitlist decision. Being waitlisted is unlike being deferred; the university has already reviewed your application and has put you on a waiting list for admission into their school. 

With many schools going “test-optional”, as well as heightened uncertainty from students due to the restriction on college visits, and nearly a quarter of students from last year’s class opting for a gap year, colleges across the nation have had a surge in the number of applicants, leaving universities to have lowered acceptance rates and longer waitlists. In simple terms, students on the waitlist have neither been rejected nor accepted into the school.

Why was I waitlisted?

Most of the time, being waitlisted means that you meet the admission criteria for the college, but they currently do not have enough space to accept you. However, this is not always the reason for a waitlisted decision.

Waitlists can also be used by colleges to control their admissions rate. If a school is highly selective, they may place more students on the waitlist. There are a handful of reasons why students are waitlisted, but generally, a waitlist decision means that the admissions office is not ready to accept you quite yet, if at all. 

What do I do now?

After receiving a waitlist decision from a school, your first step is to respond to the college and let them know whether or not you accept their offer. If the school is one of your top choices, it makes sense to stay on the waitlist. Before deciding if you accept the offer, determine whether or not it is worth it; at some schools, you will have fewer housing options or even lowered financial aid options. The timeline for hearing back from schools after accepting a waitlist decision varies from school to school. 

Waitlist applicants generally won’t hear back about a decision until after the national May 1 decision day, on which seniors submit their deposits and secure their spot at a college. However, most schools will send out decisions to waitlisted students by June.

Improving your chances

If you decide to stay on the waitlist, be proactive! There are a handful of ways to boost your chances of admission before schools begin to send out their decisions. One way to improve your chances is by calling your admissions counselors. By reiterating your interest in the school and updating your admissions officers with new information regarding your activities, grades, or other achievements, students are given the opportunity to expand upon their initial application materials.

Going forward, proceed like you are not awaiting a waitlist decision; submit your deposit for a secured spot at another school, maintain realistic expectations, and relax. You have put in the work and all there is left to do is wait!