How to Get Off a College Waiting List

Illustration for article titled How to Get Off a College Waiting List

Photo: Helioscribe (Shutterstock)

If you applied to a dream school, but landed on the waiting list, it can feel like all hope is lost. In a sense, it might feel worse than being rejected; you technically haven’t been rejected, and the university appears to be somewhat interested in you, at least. But your place on the waiting list remains a glaring reminder that you’re basically in academic purgatory.

Thankfully, there are ways to get your application off the waiting list and into the pile of acceptances. Here are some strategies for getting that dream school to take you off the loathed waiting list by the May 1 official enrollment deadline.

Send a waitlist letter to the admissions office

An admissions officer has no incentive to lift the velvet rope and let you into the school if they don’t know just how excited you are to attend their university or college. That’s why you have to craft a waitlist letter—basically, a statement of intent that details just how enamored you are with the school, and why you are a perfect fit.

The letter should also include new developments in your life and academic career, whether they be new honors, awards, extracurricular achievements, standardized test scores and your spring semester grades. This is more than you making a flirtatious glance at your preferred college. It’s an outright declaration of your plan to attend college at your chosen school. The letter should be sent, either through the mail or via email, in a packet to the school’s admissions office.

Choosing who gains admission to the school and whose waitlisted application gets canned is a tricky process. You’ve been waitlisted because the university saw value in your transcripts and essays, but you’ve been stopped short of entry because the admissions office has a limited number of spaces preserved for the incoming freshman class.

Put down a deposit at a different school

While you should try you best to get your name off the waiting list at a dream school, you have to be realistic. According to data provided by 91 universities to US News & World Report, about 1 in 5 applicants on waiting lists are eventually admitted. That means you should at least consider an alternative, and there’s no better way to do that by putting down a deposit at your second-choice school.

That isn’t an acceptance of defeat, mind you. Your deposit is only a few hundred dollars, usually, and it’s refundable. What you want is insurance that you’ll be moving into a dorm (once the pandemic is over, obviously) and putting down a deposit insures that.

Stay on the ball

The waitlist letter is really only the beginning of your quest for the coveted acceptance letter. If there are any other accolades you earn after sending your waitlist-letter response, you should notify the university’s admissions office in a separate email. The bottom line is that you have to keep the university abreast of all the great things happening in your life, so they see just how successful you are.

You should be sending new information, if it does indeed come down the pike. Feel free to send any other recommendations that your teachers might want to write, and if you’re really itching to make an impression there are other tools at your disposal.

Be careful not to overdo it, though. As Rick Bischoff, vice president for enrollment management at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told US News:

What you want to avoid is the stalker mentality, where suddenly it’s an email from the student every three days followed by seven additional letters of recommendation.

Hard as it is to think this way, don’t put too much stock in getting into a certain college. It’s possible to ascribe an idealized and unrealistic notion to the college you’re infatuated with, so stay grounded and understand you’re likely to have a great experience no matter where you go. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.