Right now, admissions officers at colleges and universities are well into reading season. They're looking for students to fill their classes with “just the right mix”. Some applicants will be an immediate ‘yes’, while some will not have quite what the school is looking for. Still others will fall into Waitlist Limbo. The waitlist is how colleges hedge their bets, and it exists because every college is concerned with ‘making its numbers’. Throughout the year, colleges determine what the ideal class will look like. It has to be a certain size, complete with the best possible mix of freshmen: athletes, musicians, ethnicities, regions, majors, and the like, are used to build the class. The outstanding students who don't fit the bill will likely result in a waitlist. After months of waiting for an answer, your answer is no answer! Based on data for some area colleges, you can see that only a small number of students are admitted from the waitlist. Tufts admitted no one in the past two years. Last year, Boston University admitted four; Holy Cross: 14; Harvard: 75; Trinity:16; and Amherst College: three. To help your chances of moving off the waitlist:
- PROMPTLY return the card or email indicating that you want to remain on the waitlist. This shows interest, and when schools look to fill its class, interest counts.
- Send a letter that you will attend if admitted...if it's true. You won't have any financial aid information , until at least mid-June, well after the May 1st deposit date. Be honest with yourself and with the school. If you can't attend without financial aid, then you might not want to send such a letter. (My website has some sample letters that will help.)
- Remit your deposit to another school. In fact, your waitlist letter probably tells you to do so. You're already likely stressing about this school, so ensure that you have a place to go come fall. If an admittance comes through, you'll lose your deposit, but it might be a small price to pay. Let's face it, the school you deposit at is on your list for a reason, so how bad will it be to attend if your “dream school” doesn't come through?
- Reply with just the information that your waitlist school requests, be it a simple “yes”, a grades or awards update, and in some cases, a brand new 500 word essay!
- If you experience ‘The Meltdown’ (when the stress of waiting to hear is too much), and you decide to attend elsewhere, make sure that you let the college know that you won't be coming.
- Don't visit the campus to beg, plead or try to gift your way into an acceptance, even if it is your first, best, and only choice and you couldn't possibly DREAM of attending another school. You want to stand out, but not by being known as the student who continually harassed the admissions representative.
- Don't let your grades suffer. Schools will move you down or off of the list. Some schools challenge students with a waitlist to test how well they overcome obstacles.
- Don't panic. During this time, you may reassess whether this is, in fact, the right school for you. If it is, and you are not offered admittance, go to the school you deposited at, do your best, and if it really is important, think about transferring sophomore year. My guess is, though, that once you are ensconced in school, you won't look back at what might have been.