Now that the majority of college admissions decisions have been released, it’s time for students to explore their options and make their final choices. But what if your situation isn’t so clear-cut? What if things didn’t quite work out as you expected, and instead of deciding between letters of admission, you find that you’ve been waitlisted at one or more schools?
While disappointment is natural in these situations, there's no need to panic. Remember, thousands of qualified applicants apply for a limited number of spots, and based on the college’s or university’s needs, there simply may not have been an available spot for you just yet. It’s a frustrating and potentially confusing situation, but there are steps you should take and a few things to keep in mind if you have been waitlisted.
If you are still interested in the school, make sure to follow its waitlist procedures. This usually involves telling the school that you accept your waitlist spot via their admissions portal. You may also have the opportunity to reiterate your interest and provide meaningful updates that you would like to share. Highlight any significant academic progress, awards, or honors. You should pull up your college application and review it to see if there are any areas that need emphasis in your waitlist statement. Keep your statement brief, use a positive tone throughout, and demonstrate exactly how you and the school would make a great fit. If you are no longer interested in the school, decline your spot on the waitlist to free up space for other candidates.
Even if you accept a spot on the waitlist, you should absolutely consider enrolling at another school; being waitlisted is far from guaranteed admission. There is no ranking of students on the waitlist, so you have no idea of where you stand in relation to others. The waitlist process is also unpredictable from year to year, statistics from previous years have no bearing on how the current year will play out. Enrolling at another school is your best bet and will require a non-refundable deposit by the May 1st deadline.
After May 1st, admissions offices will have a clear picture of the incoming freshman class. Depending on the yield (the percentage of admitted students who accept) as well as any remaining gaps/needs in the freshman class, the admissions department will begin to admit students from the waitlist. This process may last until June 1st (UCs) or as late as August (Common App schools). Once admitted off of the waitlist, students generally have only a day or two to make a decision, so plan ahead for what you would do in such a situation.
If you are not accepted off of the waitlist, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, you can always apply later as a transfer student, ideally after building a strong college academic record and profile. Regardless of what happens, be prepared to embrace your final decision. Freshman year of college is an exciting time, and there will be new opportunities and experiences all around you. Instead of dwelling on the past, focus on your future and use your college years to grow and develop into the person you ultimately want to be.
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."