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What To Do If You’re Waitlisted for College

Last updated February 2, 2024

Finding out you’re on a college’s waitlist can bring up mixed feelings, since you weren’t accepted, but technically weren’t rejected either. Being in this gray area and having to wait to see if a spot becomes available can make deciding on a college more challenging. So what do you do? Being waitlisted does not mean you should wait to make a college decision; instead, follow these steps to navigate the waitlist process.

Take some time to let it settle in

You may have been prepared for an acceptance or rejection letter, but what about being waitlisted? What do you do now? Read your letter thoroughly, take a deep breath, and take some time to let the response settle in. Maybe step away for a minute to journal, meditate, or exercise. Taking care of yourself after every college application decision is important to make sure you respond with a clear and settled mind.

Find constructive ways to cope while waiting

Being waitlisted can be challenging, and the uncertainty of the situation can cause stress. It’s important  to try and manage your emotions and maintain a positive mindset. Understand that being waitlisted isn’t bad, and it doesn’t define your abilities or your potential. Being waitlisted for college is simply a part of the competitive college admissions process. Take time to focus on your achievements and strength through self-reflection. You’ve already accomplished so much!

Decide if the school is worth the wait

This is probably one of the most important things to consider if you’re waitlisted - is this school worth the wait or uncertainty? Take some time to decide if this school is still a top choice for you. Many waitlist decisions don’t come until after May 1st or even into early summer. If the school is no longer a top choice, it is nice to let the school know so they can adjust their waitlist rankings for other potential students.

While you wait to potentially hear back, it’s important to reserve your spot at another school by May 1st. Gather information about the waitlist process, such as the likelihood of acceptance and the timeline for decisions. Meanwhile, remain proactive by exploring alternative college options and securing a spot at a school where you've been accepted. Keep in mind that reserving your spot at a college can be anywhere from $100-1000 and that money could be lost if you get admitted & attend the waitlisted school. Fee waivers to cover enrollment deposits fees are available for income eligible students.

A young man stares intently at his laptop in a cafe. - What To Do If You’re Waitlisted for College

Check to see if there are instructions in the correspondence you received

Make sure that you read your correspondence from the college thoroughly. Some schools might require students to “accept” waitlisted status or even provide further documentation. If your waitlisted school is still a top choice, try writing a letter to the admissions office to show your continued interest in attending the school. In your letter, you can provide additional information about your accomplishments or interests while emphasizing your desire to attend. Make sure to also highlight any new achievements or information since submitting your application. If the school decides to offer you placement in the fall, they want to know you are likely to accept the offer and will be a good fit at the school.

Maintain strong academic momentum

Now is the time to focus in class, study hard, and get the best grades possible. Some schools may reevaluate your waitlist status based on your senior year grades, so don’t let them slip. It’s important to show schools how you continued to work hard and focus on your academics even after applying.

Don’t miss another opportunity while waiting

Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? It’s applicable to your college decision! If you were waitlisted at one school, you may want to strongly consider enrolling at a different school that accepted you. Since being waitlisted can bring up a lot of uncertainty and can be a drawn-out process, it’s best to accept an offer from a school to ensure you will attend college in the fall.

Keep in mind that your education is a journey with multiple pathways, and being adaptable in your decision-making will ultimately contribute to a successful college experience.

Manage your expectations

It’s important to manage your expectations during this process. Many schools provide waitlist statistics on the admissions page. If you can’t find that information, try contacting an admissions counselor at the school. Looking up this information could help you determine the likelihood of being admitted. If the chances are small, it may be time to seek alternative options.

No matter what, make sure you talk to a trusted adult or educator about this decision and be prepared to act quickly. Have any questions or need some guidance as you make your college decision? We’re here to support you! Text #College to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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