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Improve Your College Waitlist Chances

You’ve submitted your application to your dream school. You’re excited, you’re ready to hear the good word…and then you receive a letter from the school saying that you’ve made it to their waitlist…

The college waitlist doesn’t mean it is the end of your college application. It just means you still have a chance. Here are a few tips to improve your college waitlist chances.

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What Is The Waitlist?

What does being on this list mean?

In short, the waitlist is a pool of applicants that meet a school’s admission requirements but unfortunately didn’t slide into one of the pre-allocated slots the college had for that class. The waitlist then is sort of a bullpen for college applicants; you may be called up when needed, but it’s not a guarantee.



Tips For Improving Your Waitlist Chances

Follow these initial tips to give yourself a better shot of getting off the list.

Choose To Stay Or Not – The first step is figuring out whether or not you want to stay on the waitlist. Being on the waitlist isn’t mandatory; it’s simply a spot you are given. If you aren’t happy about being waitlisted, then don’t be afraid to consider other school options.

Plus, you need to find out if being waitlisted affects your housing and financial aid options. If you aren’t 100% committed to attending this school, then don’t sweat the waitlist. But, if you’re in it to win it, then look at this as a chance to get in. Just remember that it’s not a guarantee.

Formally Accept Your Spot – If being on the waitlist doesn’t bother you, then formally accept your spot. Normally, you will have the option of either going online or responding via postcard to confirm your spot. Let the school know that you’re still interested and ready for a spot to open. Once they know, then it’s time to start working on improving your odds.

Assess Your List Status – When contacting the admissions office, don’t be afraid to ask where you stand on it. Ask if the school has a particular ranking system for waitlisted applicants. Maybe it has a priority list? Chances are if your rank is higher on that list, your chances of acceptance increase too. The main point is don’t be afraid to ask. Admissions will know how serious you are without becoming a nuisance to them.

Demonstrate Your Continued Interest – Don’t be afraid to contact the admissions office to express your interest. Sometimes schools won’t require additional follow-ups once you let them know you’re staying on their list. Send an email that re-emphasizes your enthusiasm for the school itself and interest in attending. Also, if this school is your number one choice among many options, then let them know that explicitly. This is not the time to be shy about your intentions.

Follow Up For Updates – Take the initiative and get updates. Chances are, you won’t hear back from the school once waitlisted unless a spot opens up for you. Anything else you want to know, you’ll have to find out for yourself. That’s why you should make it a point to touch base with the admissions office for more information. Again, ask about the size of the list pool you’re included in. Find out if there are other requirements or things you can do in the meantime. Let them know that you’re not sitting and waiting around in hope.

Write A Letter – The school has already decided that your academic resume is good enough for them. To improve your odds of getting off the list, write them a letter to expound on your nonacademic virtues. If you’ve won any recent awards not previously mentioned or other personal attributes/stories to share, now is the time. Reiterate your desire to attend, where it stems from, and what you will bring to their campus. Also, let them know that if they accept you, you will enroll.

Request An Interview – Getting an in-person interview, either your first one or a follow-up, can help. Why? Because you now have a specific person to call upon for aid. If an admissions officer is taking the time out of his or her schedule to meet with you, then take that opportunity to further impress your desire. Chances are good that you can continue contact afterward for status updates. Again, walk that fine line between interested student and stalker.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Options

If your chances start looking rough, don’t be afraid to pivot.

Reconsider Alternative Schools – Don’t be afraid of other choices. In the end, a waitlist spot isn’t a guarantee. Be ready to look at other schools that have accepted you already. If there’s one that you’d be just as happy with, then don’t sweat going there instead. You will feel better knowing that you’re going to school and that you’re immediately wanted. If you make that decision, then let the waitlist school know that you’re relinquishing your spot.


Don’t Be Afraid To Submit An Alternate Deposit – Even if you’re waitlisted at your number one choice, send a deposit to an alternative school. Don’t be afraid to secure a spot at another school while on the waitlist. You can mentally relax over the stress created by not knowing if you’ll make it off the waitlist. At least you know that you will be attending a school in the fall, one way or another. Give yourself that mental and emotional insurance.

Be Ready For An Answer – Have your mind ready for the school’s final answer. Be prepared for either answer from your school choice. If ultimately you can’t get in, then look at it as an opportunity to grow. Remember that you put time and hard work into that goal.

Even if it doesn’t pan out the way you want, at least appreciate knowing you tried your best. If you do end up getting accepted because of a last-second opening, then accept it graciously. There is no need to gloat; the hard work hasn’t even begun.

How Prep Expert Can Help

Besides providing standardized test prep, we also offer comprehensive admissions consulting services.

We know that getting a great SAT or ACT score is a huge part of the battle, but it’s not the final victory blow. You also need to work on your application essay, itemize and prioritize your extracurriculars, work on your interview skills, etc. We can also provide further help on how to handle getting off a waitlist, besides the tips offered here.

Thankfully, our Admissions Director is available to help both students and parents ace the process. For more information, take a moment to check out our Admissions Consulting page for services and updates.

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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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