Time seems to stop as you open the decision letter from your dream school, focusing on one tiny sentence with giant possibilities: “We’d like to offer you a place on the waitlist.” It’s common to feel disappointed when you don’t receive a resounding YES from the school at which you’d hoped to spend the next four years, but don’t lose hope yet! Colleges send waitlist offers when they have reached the cap of students they can admit, but still see plenty of strong qualifications in other applicants. Because they know that not every accepted student will ultimately commit, and are motivated to fill as many spots as they can, the waitlist offers other promising students a second chance.
College admissions notifications roll in throughout the month of March, and you can most likely expect a mix of acceptances, rejections, and waitlists. First, take a moment to be proud of yourself for the acceptances you did receive! Unfortunately, there is little you can do about a rejection — you may be discouraged for a short time, but remember that you have many options awaiting you, and memorable experiences are in your future regardless of which school you attend. When it comes to being waitlisted, however, there are a few steps you should take.
- Indicate your desire to remain on the waitlist.
Colleges typically include a link in the electronic decision letter through which you can indicate your decision. While some schools specify a response deadline, it is in your best interest to communicate your interest in remaining on the waitlist as soon as possible.
- Read your admissions decision document(s) carefully to determine if you need to provide supplemental information, and related deadlines.
In some cases, all you can do is wait for a final decision from the school. However, many schools will provide you with an opportunity to submit an appeal letter detailing any updates and accomplishments since submitting your initial application. The appeal letter is NOT a place to expand upon your resume or to list out your first semester senior year grades (although some schools will provide a separate text box for this latter purpose). Focus on updates that highlight your value as an applicant — simply continuing to achieve good grades or remaining involved in your extracurriculars is not enough. However, if you won any awards or made significant progress in your activities, this is great information to include! Ultimately, your appeal letter should showcase the strength of your initiative and a high level of engagement in your endeavors– both qualities that are highly desirable in college applicants. You should try to submit your appeal letter by mid- to end-of-April, even if the deadline is a month or more out.
- Submit your Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) by May 1.
This is the universal deadline by which you must commit to one school and submit a deposit. This is the school you will attend in the case that you do not receive a final offer from any of the schools for which you were waitlisted, so make your decision thoughtfully! Colleges will begin notifying waitlisted applicants of their final status after the May 1 deadline, once they have a better idea of their yield (the proportion of accepted applicants who committed). This process can take up to three months, as each college’s yield changes. For instance, a student who submitted an SIR to UPenn, but was later taken off the waitlist at Harvard and committed to that school instead, creates an open spot at UPenn for waitlisted applicants. Furthermore, waitlisted applicants who are ultimately offered a spot may decline for various reasons. In this case, the offer will be extended to the next applicant on the waitlist, and so on.
- Check your email often!
If you are offered admission off the waitlist, you’ll typically have 24-48 hours to respond. If you do not respond within this time frame, the offer will move to the next person on the list. Make it a habit to check your email at least twice a day to avoid missing out on this limited-time opportunity!
- Use your down-time productively.
Reach out to admission representatives, alumni, and/or your former interviewer, and ask them questions about what more you can do (if anything) to maximize your chances of being accepted off the waitlist.
Our professionals at the Admission Masters don’t stop once application season ends! From crafting a convincing appeal letter to submitting your SIR, we’re committed to helping you find the best school for you — every step of the way.
College Admission Consulting Group, ‘Admission Masters’
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