Waitlisted For Your Top College Choice What’s Next?

Waitlisted For Your Top College Choice

You had hoped the admissions process would be over by now, but you have been waitlisted for your top college choice. What do you do now?

33% of colleges and universities use waitlists. These lists are effectively the colleges’ back up plans. They have a number in mind of how many freshmen they want to admit. The colleges also know that not all students will accept their invitations to join their student bodies. So the waitlists are there to fill the gap.

Approximately 10% of student s who apply to a college with a waitlist will wind up on the list. Out of those 10%, 20% of them will get off the waitlist and get into the college.

So here’s your first lesson about being waitlisted. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you. You only have a 1 in 5 chance of getting off that waitlist. So if you’re serious about and you really want to get into that school, then you better do some work to improve your chances.

1. The student makes all contact with the college.

First things first… Mom and Dad need to stay out of this process. Here’s a bit of trivia for you…

Out of all the communication that a typical admissions office receives:

  • 85% comes from parents of prospective students
  • 10% comes from high school guidance counselors
  • 5% comes from the students themselves

Only 5% of all communication comes from the students! Do you realize that one of the most effective ways for your student to stand out amongst the thousands of applicants is to be one of the very few students who contact the admissions department themselves? This is the first key to getting off the waitlist. The student should be making all the contact with the college.

2. Decide whether or not to pursue the waitlisted school or schools.

This is an important step, and can easily get overlooked, so answer this big question now.  Take stock and determine if you really want to remain on the waitlist. Is the school that much more desirable than their second or third choice which has already admitted them? Do you want to hang on to the chance they would get in? Since most of the financial resources will have long before been allocated and history shows you are not likely to get a generous award.  If lowering the out of pocket cost is important, it’s worth taking a serious look if you should take the money being offered by one of the other schools.

3. What’s your backup plan?

Third… You and your student need to formulate their backup plan. Remember, only 20% of students get off the waitlist. Also keep in mind that most colleges require you to make a yes or no decision by May 1st. There is a very high likelihood that you will not hear anything about getting off the waitlist until July or August. So you must have a backup plan.

Pick one of the other schools you have already been accepted to, hopefully one with a generous financial aid offer, and send in your confirmation and deposits. You need to pursue your backup plan school as if you will be there in the fall. Then if your first choice school comes through and you get off the waitlist; you can let your backup know and change course. Of course, you have to be willing to give up your deposits at the backup school.

Do not pass up this step. You must have a backup plan. Don’t start telling yourself, “well that doesn’t seem fair to my backup school.”

4. Contact the Admissions office

Fourth… You need to contact the admissions office directly (you being the student). Ask them why you were waitlisted. Was there something missing? Were your ACT or SAT scores just a little too low? Were they looking for more leadership? Find out as many details about the admissions decision that you can without being a pest. Find out who the admissions representative is who has your file.

Now send them a letter reiterating your interest in going to their school. List what you like about their school. Is the location, the staff, its history, your experience at a campus visit. You need to present yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and a good fit for their university.

5. Follow up with the College

Fifth… You need to be following up with the college as you are able to provide them with important information which will cast you in a good light and help them make their decisions. Here are some good reasons to contact your admissions rep and update them:

  • Your ACT or SAT score went up measurably
  • Your GPA has improved
  • You have just received a school or community award.

This is not the time to Twitter your admissions counselor to death. They don’t care who you went to prom with. They don’t care that you’re going on a really cool senior trip. And they don’t care that your group won the high school battle of the bands.

You want to provide them relevant information.

6. Don’t Obsess over the Waitlist

If you’ve put together a well thought out admissions plan, you should have several other schools who have already accepted you. You are just as likely to have a great college experience at those schools as you are at your first choice school. So don’t worry about it. Get on with the rest of your Senior year and have some fun!

If you would like a complimentary financial aid evaluation, please contact our office.

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