College Waiting Lists

Many students who are on the bubble of being accepted into a college will be placed on a waiting list. Students will have to sweat it out for months while that college makes its final decisions.

            Students can opt to stay on waiting lists; however, less than 30% of wait-listed students will eventually be accepted, according to The US News & World Report. Also, students’ chances are significantly lower for Ivy League Schools and other elite colleges. Recently, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has accepted anywhere from 0-40 students from its waiting list that is usually comprised of several hundred students.   A recent New York Times article also does not offer much hope to students who have been placed “in limbo”.

            The US News & World Report highlighted five suggestions for students who are placed on colleges’ waiting lists.

1. Explore other options: Students need to be realistic about their chances of being accepted from a college’s waiting list. Students should consider attending other colleges and even send letters of intent to those colleges in case they do not get accepted from the college that wait-listed them.

2. Ask the college about your chances: Colleges have different waiting lists systems. Some colleges analyze and rank their wait-listed students by their test scores and high school GPAs. Students who have lower scores and are farther down on the waiting list have a small chance of being accepted. Other schools will be pulling students to fill voids. For example, if an accepted student athlete declines a college’s offer, then that college is likely to accept another student athlete from its waiting list. This system makes it nearly impossible for a wait-listed student to inquire about his/her chances of being accepted.

3. Show interest in the school: This can help some students’ chances of being accepted from a college’s waiting list. If a school has an essay in its application on why you want to go there, then fill it out, even if it’s optional. Also, it might help to go on a college visit. This could show the college that you are truly passionate about going there. Most admission officers understand that the students who want to attend that college more will perform better. Therefore, showing strong interest – and maybe even sucking up a little – could get a wait-listed student accepted.

4. Be pleasantly persistent: Students should send the college’s admissions office a letter updating their recent achievements and progress since submitting their application. Students can show a little creativity with this. However, students should avoid being obsessive. Don’t send gifts of food or drink. Traditionally, sending anything with monetary value is a bad idea. And please do not send a shoe, highlighting that you are trying to get a foot in the door.

5. Don’t stay on the college’s waiting list for the sake of doing so: Many admissions officers appreciate students who notify the college of withdrawals, especially if students are happy with their offers from other colleges. This makes admissions officers’ jobs easier. Also, if students automatically stay on a college’s waiting list, they could essentially be taking another student’s spot.