You’ve submitted your college applications, enjoyed an all too brief period of relief, and have now resorted to stalking the mailman in anticipation of finding a nice, thick envelope from the admissions committee at your favorite school declaring how much they’d love to have you on campus.

Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and you instead hear the disheartening news that you’ve been waitlisted or placed into what many admissions counselors refer to as “admissions purgatory.” And you’re not alone there – about 10 percent of all applicants find themselves on a waitlist as they work their way through the admissions process.

As frustrating as being waitlisted can be, it’s becoming far more prevalent as more and more incoming freshman are competing for the same number of spots. Students are also applying to more schools than ever to help maximize their chances of gaining admission somewhere, which in turn leads to colleges sending out more rejection letters.

If you find yourself waitlisted at a school that you really, really want to attend, challenge the terminology. Don’t satisfy yourself with simply waiting.  Your best bet is to proactively inform the school of your interest in attending without coming across as overeager or becoming a potential annoyance. Don’t call every day, don’t beg everyone you know for a recommendation letter, and don’t immediately try to contact the person with the most authority at the school.

A good first step is to draft a brief letter or call the college’s admissions office and reiterate your interest in attending there, particularly when dealing with your first-choice school. Schools like to know that if they accept you, you’ll actually attend. When contacting admissions offices, talk to the primary “point person” in the admissions office, the person from the admissions office assigned to your geographical region whom you’ve likely been dealing with throughout the application process. It’s perfectly appropriate to ask for the specific reason you were waitlisted instead of accepted. Request about what you do to increase your chances of finding your way off of the list. Some schools will grant interviews to waitlisted students, so if you feel you interview well and think that an interview might help your changes of gaining admittance, be sure to inquire about that as well.

Even if a school says it doesn’t need to receive additional information about you, there’s no harm in telling the admissions officer in charge of your application about any new honors or achievements you’ve received since you initially submitted your application, and if you can secure an additional glowing letter of recommendation (perhaps from an employee or community leader who knows you well), forward that along as well. But don’t bombard the school with a folder full of new recommendation letters – just send one. If applicable, let the school know that your financial aid needs have changed and you have the ability to pay more than you’d initially thought.

There’s no guarantee that your efforts will be rewarded with an acceptance, so our best advice if you’re waitlisted is to get excited about the colleges who have extended admissions invitations. Submit your deposit to the school you like the most and picture yourself as a member of its incoming freshman class. You may find that you’re second choice is the best fit for you after all. But if the unexpected does occur and you choose to accept an offer of admittance from a school that previously had you on its waitlist, be sure to immediately notify the college you deposited with. That gives the school the opportunity to extend an invitation to another from its waitlist!


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