Waitlist: Now What?

Waitlists or alternative acceptances can be frustrating and curious depending on whether or not you considered the school a likely or safety.  The key for this time of year is to focus on the positive and not take the denials personally. (I know, easier said than done). You should be proud of your efforts and accomplishments and put your energy into making a final decision among your acceptances.

Here is an article showing how much more competitive it has become, especially this year.

Georgia Tech also wrote an article on why the waitlist STILL sucks.


For those of you who were waitlisted, you are in good company. Colleges used the waitlist more heavily this year because they are trying to manage their yields and have no way of predicting how many of the admitted students will come. Applications were up in record numbers at many schools. As a result, colleges use the waitlist for students that are qualified and that they would love to admit if they had the space. As they see who matriculates and who doesn’t, they can easily go into their waitlist and call or e-mail the applicant who best matches the type of person they need to create the class. You will have to matriculate at one of your accepted schools by May 1, which is before colleges typically move to their waitlist.


  • Students who they want to accept, but simply do not have enough slots.
  • Determine if a student is truly interested in coming to the school.
  • Manage their yields and only accept students as others do not matriculate.
  • Manage enrollment by not having to offer financial or merit aid to waitlist students.


  1. Write a letter to the regional admissions representative (some large states do not have regional reps, so just send it to the admissions office) to make the match and let the college know that it is your first choice school and that you will come if accepted (if this is true).
  2. Imagine what you will do when you are there in a very specific way. Try to communicate that effectively to admissions.
  3. Send the letter out quickly to show that you are truly interested in the school.
  4. Meet with your guidance counselor to have them advocate on your behalf to the school that is top of your list if you are waitlisted at numerous schools. The admissions person from the college may ask your guidance counselor if this school is your first choice, so it helps if it is.
  5. If there is relevant new information since you applied, send that along as well.
  6. Note that the chances of coming off a particular waitlist are more difficult for students who were first deferred, then waitlisted.

While we have seen students successfully get off the waitlist each year, we recommend moving forward with your other options with a positive mindset.

For further tips on how to move forward, read this article from the Huffington Post.

Finally, if you know that you are NOT going to a school to which you have been accepted, let them know as soon as possible so that they can inform another student who is on their waitlist.

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