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What to Do if You’ve Been Waitlisted

standinginlineGetting waitlisted can add confusion to an already stressful applications process. After receiving the news that you have been waitlisted, you may be feeling stressed, nervous, angry, scared, or even confused.

There are a few things you should understand about your admission prospects. Firstly, remember that all is not lost; in some cases, there are even some steps you can take to improve your chances of admission. If you want to ease your admission anxiety, below you’ll find everything you need to know about your options after being waitlisted.

Chances of Admission: What Does Being Waitlisted Mean for Me?

Waiting lists are used as a means for accommodating students who meet requirements for admission, but are surplus for the college’s capacity to facilitate students. Your chance of being admitted off of the wait list varies drastically from school to school. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, about one third of students who decide to stay on a waiting list are later admitted. For more competitive programs or for ivy league schools, these margins of acceptance can be razor thin. Recently, Yale waitlisted 996 students, and only went on to accept 103 of them. Schools like Duke will often place thousands on a waitlist, anticipating the admission of only a few dozen.

The reason the acceptance rate for waitlisted students at selective schools is so low is because waiting lists act as safety nets for universities—allowing them to have a pool of applicants to choose from in case accepted students decide not to attend. Students selected for competitive, ivy-league programs are more likely to accept an offer of admission, so waitlisted students are more likely to be rejected from these institutions.

However, despite those statistics, being waitlisted doesn’t have to signify the end of your college dream; in fact, you have a couple different options at your disposal.

Staying Listed

The very first thing you should do is figure out the specific deadline for decision at the college in question. Although the date will vary drastically from school to school and program to program, May 1st is a common time for many institutions.

The next step is to decide whether you want to remain on the waiting list or not. If you’re seriously considering accepting the offer for admission, remaining on the waiting list is a good idea. There is often a form or response that waitlisted students are required to fill out if they wish to remain on the waiting list; US News urges students who want to remain on the list to fill this out as soon as possible. However, if you’ve decided to accept a different offer, it’s a good idea to get off the waiting list for the benefit of the other applicants.

Terms and Conditions Apply
Before you make any big decisions one way or the other, you should call the school and determine if there are any conditions that waitlisted candidates should be aware of. Most commonly, these conditions happen because waitlisted candidates are informed about their admission much later than other applicants, which can reduce the amount of financial aid and housing options available to them.

Looking Forward

If you decide to remain on the waiting list, you should also prepare to attend a different school, as a precaution. If different institutions have accepted you, select the one that suits your needs best to ensure that you’ll have a place. You may be forced to make a small non-refundable deposit in order to do this, but it’s an important insurance to have if your waiting list program doesn’t turn out.

If you were not accepted to other institutions, or did not apply to other institutions, consider looking into colleges with rolling applications, community colleges, or online schools.

Be Proactive

Determining a sense of your chances of admission involves contacting the admissions office and inquiring about the wait list. How is the wait list organized? Are students placed in a priority list of some kind? Where are you on the list? Is there a long waitlist and a short waitlist? Most schools will gladly inform you of your status if you contact admissions.

Establishing a presence for yourself after you’ve been waitlisted is generally a good idea, as long as you don’t become a pest (in other words: do not contact the admissions office to ask why you weren’t accepted). Communicate with admissions, by letter or email, that you still have an active interest in attending the school. Updates and changes to your application are also a good idea to include (this also consists of achievements and shifts in your grades since your application). According to the Princeton Review, you should ask that a letter declaring your interest in the school—and pledging attendance if you are, in fact, accepted—be added to your file.

Remember that if a school has placed you on a waitlist, that means they’ve already determined you have all the academic skills necessary to be admitted. You’ll only benefit from adding nonacademic information that could help your case, achievements you didn’t mention in your application, or supplemental data that can help improve your case.

Remember: You’re Already Successful!

Above all else, remember that your application was waitlisted—not declined. If you’re ultimately turned away because the school can only accommodate a limited number of students, know that you’ve already achieved something because most students didn’t get as far as you! Remind yourself that many students are waitlisted every year, and that being waitlisted does not invalidate your many accomplishments or your hard work.

Rather than see your being waitlisted as a setback, take this time to refocus on your goals and take pride in the fact that—wherever you’re going to school—you’ll be starting on an exciting new chapter in your life. There is no one path to success, and while your dream school may feel out of reach following a waitlisted status or even a rejection, your dreams certainly aren’t.

This article was contributed on behalf of Bay Area Recovery. If you’re stressing out about being waitlisted, remember that drugs and alcohol are not the answer. If you’re battling problems with seeking these whenever you’re stressed, it would be a good idea to consider finding a compassionate drug and alcohol rehabilitation program such as that with Bay Area Recovery. Check out their website today and see how they can help you!

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