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How to Get Off the Waitlist

The waitlist isn’t a straightforward acceptance, but it isn’t a rejection either, which is good news! Many students get off the waitlist and into their ideal colleges every year. The uncomfortable limbo can sometimes feel out of your control, but there are a few things you can do while you wait for the university’s decision.

First, it’s important to understand why the waitlist exists and why you may find yourself with a “waitlisted” status instead of a straightforward acceptance or rejection. Every year, the admissions team at each university has an ideal class size they would like to admit. The admissions team knows that not every student admitted will actually enroll at their campus, so they will extend more acceptances than their ideal class size. However, there will be a waitlist just in case there are fewer students that enroll at their university than they previously had thought.The size of the waitlist and the chances of being accepted vary from year to year. For example, Harvard admitted zero waitlisted students to the class of 2021, but 63 in the class of 2022. There is no guarantee that you will be accepted off the waitlist, but it is possible!

Your application may have been waitlisted for various reasons. Some years, campuses may have received a lot of really great applications, or maybe there are too few spots for the amount of applications received. It has been said that admissions teams could create a really amazing class out of the waitlisted applicants alone. Your application may have been strong, but maybe not as strong as the other applicants. If you find yourself in this position, it’s time to wait patiently and hedge your bets. Here’s a few things to do while you wait.

Consider all your options

You absolutely do not have to accept the waitlist position if you decide you don’t actually want to go to the school in question. Take a look at the other schools in which you were accepted, and decide whether you’d like to accept your waitlist position.

Accept your spot on the waitlist

The university will give you directions on how to accept your spot on the waitlist. It will likely be online, but there may be a mail-in option depending on your communication preferences.

Make a deposit at another university

There are many reasons you may not get off the waitlist for no fault of your own. In the event that this happens, it is best that you keep the ball rolling at another university. If you are accepted somewhere else via the waitlist and decide to go there, you will lose your deposit but will otherwise have no issues.

Follow up with the university

Try to express interest in the school once more via an email to the admissions office. This is one more chance to show the admissions officers who you are and what you have accomplished since you applied.

Here are a few tips for writing a great follow up letter:

1. Thank the admissions team for reconsidering their application. Try not to over-do it, as this should only be the introduction to the rest of the email. It should set a respectful tone but allow you to get right to the point.

2. The meat of your letter should be giving the admissions team an update on what you have done since your application was submitted the previous year. This is a great time to address any weaknesses you may have had on your original application. For example, if you felt that your academics could have been better, this would be a great time to discuss that you are currently getting all A’s! Maybe you didn’t have interesting extracurriculars on your activities list or resume. This would be a great time to describe an activity you’ve picked up in the meantime. Remember not to make this letter solely a list of accomplishments. Use this opportunity to showcase your writing abilities and create an easily flowing narrative.

3. Write a few paragraphs about why the school you’ve been waitlisted for is a good fit for you. Try not to mention surface-level factors, such as location, but rather why the programs or other opportunities would be right for you. After all, since you submitted your application, it has been a few months! You have had time to think more about why you actually want to attend this university.

4. If something significant has negatively impacted your accomplishments in the last year, this would be a good time to mention it. Something like an illness or other family hardship that kept you away from your typical extracurricular activities would be an example.

5. Be concise. You do not need to ramble or add unnecessary flowery language. This is an opportunity to update the admissions committee and express your interest again, but is not a second personal statement.

Waitlist decisions come out after May 1st, when deposits and enrollment decisions of first-round acceptances are made. Good luck! If you need help crafting your perfect response, don’t hesitate to get in touch.



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