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Waitlisted from Your Top Choice College: What Now?

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

This year is unusual for all, and certainly it is tough for our high school seniors, the Class of 2020. Senior Spring is not what you had planned. With all of the uncertainty we are all feeling, your college acceptances gave you something wonderful to look forward to: the culmination of your hard work and the grand finale to your childhood and education. You are going to college and finally you get to decide where. You were hoping for acceptances and prepared for rejections, but you were not ready for the unsettling limbo of “the waitlist.”


Being on the waitlist means that you are qualified and that the school may consider you for admission before the fall in the event that they need more members of their freshman class. Once you have received notification from admissions that you have been waitlisted, in order to officially be on the waitlist, you must let admissions know that you wish to remain on the waitlist. According to NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counseling), approximately 50% of students who are offered waitlist positions choose to remain on the waitlist. And of those 50%, approximately 20% will ultimately be offered admission from the waitlist. The waitlist is not an actual list, in that, typically, it is not ranked. Rather, members of the waitlist are there to help balance the diversity, demographics, and institutional needs for the freshman class. For example, if fewer boys than are expected accept the regular decision admission offers of a particular college, then the college will likely take more boys from the waitlist. Or conversely, if many humanities majors accept their admission offers from a college, then that college will likely be looking to pull STEM majors from the waitlist.


Think carefully and then act.

If you really want to go to the college where you are waitlisted and it is worth it to you to give it your all, follow the instructions of the college to let them know that you are eager to stay on the waitlist. If not, then let the college know that you do not wish to remain on the waitlist. Free that spot up for someone else the same way you would want them to do for you.

Commit to your next choice school and get excited.

In the end, there is only college that really matters: the one that you will be attending in the fall of your freshman year in college. Even if you choose to stay on the waitlist, and plan to go all out to get off the waitlist, secure your spot at your next choice college. Send your non-refundable deposit, treat yourself to that college’s best swag, and get psyched! Chances are that you would have a wonderful experience living and learning at this school for the next four years.


Compose a letter of continued interest.

Write a one-page letter by email addressed to your admissions representative and the head of admissions. Your letter should:

  • Be enthusiastic and excited. State clearly that the college remains your top choice and that if accepted you will happily accept and attend.

  • Tell the college something they don’t already know. Update them on activities you have already shared, but ideally give them some new information. Have you earned any awards or honors since you submitted your application?

  • Remind admissions why you love their school and how you plan to contribute to and make an impact in their community. Refer to specific classes, clubs, and opportunities that show that you have researched the school well. Show admissions that you are a great fit for the school and that the school is a great fit for you.

Be nice.

As hard as it is when you are disappointed, be gracious and upbeat. It is important that you treat everyone that you come into contact with from the school, courteously. Be your best in all communications. Admissions people are looking for students who will make their college community a happy and compassionate place. Use this opportunity to show them that is who you are.

Finish up strong.

During these unusual and stressful times, it is tough to remain focused. Do the best you can. As always, the most important thing to college admissions is your academic performance in high school. Do your best in all of your academic classes, even if it is through remote classes. Ideally, get the best grades you have ever gotten and tell your admissions representative about it. Let them know that this is a trend you are eager to continue.

Stay positive.

You are going to college, you have so much to look forward to you, and you WILL celebrate! In the meantime, be good to yourself, and congratulations on being a Spring Semester Senior. You earned it.

If you are on the waitlist at your top choice college, contact to help you write a letter of continued interest and do all you can to gain admission to the college that is the best fit for you.

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