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Waitlist Torture: What to Expect and What to Do If You’re Waitlisted by Your Favorite College(s)

What to Expect and What to Do If You’re Waitlisted by Your Favorite College(s)Your SAT and ACT scores were impressive.  You’re sure that the recommendations from your teachers were stellar.  Your grades were good…even great in some areas.  You always volunteered outside of school or participated in an extracurricular activity or two.  Overall, you feel that you’re a very strong, well-rounded applicant and admission to your favorite college is a guarantee.  So, you pick up your iPhone to check your email and you see that your favorite college has contacted you.  Excitedly, you open the email with a knowing smile on your face.

As you read the first line and then the second, your smile starts to fade.  Your brows furrow in confusion.  This can’t be happening.  You see the words waitlisted and you cease to continue reading as the unexpected admissions decision sinks into your brain. 

You’re thinking to yourself: What do I do now? And what exactly should you expect after being waitlisted?

First, understand that you weren’t rejected, you were just put on a waiting list because the college had more qualified applicants than freshman spaces available.  Hence, it wasn’t necessarily because you weren’t a great candidate that you weren’t offered admission, it was because the admission numbers that given year didn’t work in your favor.

If someone declines their admissions acceptance, then a candidate on the waiting list will be offered an admissions spot instead.  Keep in mind that since colleges will be waiting to hear a yes or no from candidates that were accepted, it might take some time before you are contacted if a candidate who was accepted chooses to not attend the college.  You can only be offered a space if the college receives confirmation that someone else will not attend.  So be patient.   

Sometimes being waitlisted can feel worse than being rejected, because being waitlisted can leave you in limbo.  You have to emotionally prepare yourself for the waiting game, with no guarantee in sight that you’ll actually get the opportunity to go to your favorite school. 

However, being waitlisted isn’t the worst fate in the world, but when it happens, the disappointment you feel can be overwhelming.  It’s fine to allow yourself to feel disappointed in the beginning, but afterwards shake off those feelings and instead turn your attention to what to do next.

There are several things you should do if you find yourself waitlisted:

1-Reach out to the school.  Thank the school for their careful consideration of your candidacy.  And then reiterate your interest in attending.  Hence, even if you’re shocked and disappointed by being waitlisted, don’t wallow too long.  You want to make sure the college knows immediately that you’re still interested so that if a spot does become available, it doesn’t go to someone else.

2-Continue to do well in school.  This is a big one.  You don’t want to slack off now that you’ve been waitlisted. Some colleges might want to review your grades again before making a final decision.  Now is the time to show colleges that you’re resilient and a sure bet; by keeping your grades up and staying focused, you’ll show that you’re a candidate worth reconsidering.

3- Being waitlisted shouldn’t result in inaction on your part. It’s important to keep moving forward, and that means solidifying plans to attend another school.  Accept an offer of admissions from your backup school.  It’s important to have a Plan B because being waitlisted often means you won’t eventually receive an offer of admissions from the college that waitlisted you. Don’t be hesitant to say yes to your backup college.  Either A) you’ll eventually be offered admission at your favorite college, after being waitlisted, and will lose your deposit to your backup college or B) You’ll still go to college and be successful, but it won’t be the college that was your first choice.  Not all of us go to our first-choice school, and this is perfectly fine.

Being waitlisted will only be torture if you don’t continue to move forward after the decision.  By taking positive actions like those mentioned above, you’ll feel more in charge of your future and being waitlisted won’t feel like torture anymore.

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