How to Get Accepted from the Waitlist
by Maria Minsker | Cornell University
Getting waitlisted at a school you’re really passionate about attending is, to put it simply, rough. You haven’t been accepted, but you haven’t been rejected, either, which leaves you in this awful state of indeterminate limbo. As upsetting as it is to learn that you’ve been waitlisted, there’s still a lot that you can do between now and the day you receive the school’s final decision to show the admissions office why you deserve to attend the college of your dreams. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you navigate through this stressful process and make yourself the best candidate on that waitlist.
1. DO: Immediately figure out what the school requires of waitlisted students
The waitlist letter you received most likely tells you what steps you need to take if you want to remain on the waitlist. Some schools require that you simply contact them by mail, phone or email and inform them that you are still interested, but others require additional materials.
Do they want to see an additional recommendation from a teacher? Do they want to see a writing sample? If there isn’t much information on your actual letter, check out the school’s admissions website, or contact the admissions office by phone.
2. DO: Get in touch with the school’s regional representative
Most colleges have regional representatives in an area near you, and if your school required an in-person interview, this is likely the person that interviewed you.
“Speaking as a former dean of admissions, I know first-hand that contacting the head of the office is generally not the most effective step to take when you’re waitlisted,” Bill Shain of William M. Shain Consulting told the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). “Rather,” he said, “find out who the point person for your application is, because that person will be your advocate as spots from the waitlist become available.”
If you’re not sure who this person is, try to find out from the school website or call the admissions office and ask for their contact information. It’s important to develop a relationship with this representative and continually show him or her your enthusiasm so he or she can put in a good word for you when the time comes.
3. DO: Write a letter to the school
In addition to contacting the school’s local representative, write a letter to the school’s admissions office explaining why you believe you should be accepted. Yes, you’ve already written a million letters and personal statements, but this proactive approach to being waitlisted might make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.
Make sure your letter is heartfelt, sincere, and most importantly offers something different from what the school has already seen in your original application. Also, include how you plan to contribute to the college when you get there. “Be specific,” College Focus LLC’s Maureen McQuaid said. “For instance, discuss research, academic programs, clubs, community service and campus jobs in which you hope to engage and the value you will offer.”
Have a guidance counselor or teacher look it over, and send it as soon as possible so the school immediately sees how determined you are to be accepted.
4. DO: Keep the school updated
Make sure to let the school know if anything changes academically or financially, especially if it is a positive change. Have you just been recognized for outstanding performance in a subject? Did you just receive a fabulous scholarship or grant? These are all things to relay to the school.
Unfortunately, finances often play a major role in the school’s decision and a sudden addition of funds might make you a more appealing candidate.
“Be sure to let the school know, as funds may be in short supply at this point, and your ability to pay could make a difference,” said College Find’s Gael Casner.
5. DO: Keep up your grades
As tempting as it is to succumb to senioritis, keeping up your grades will probably be one of the most important factors in the school’s ultimate decision. When they see your updated transcript, you don’t want them to have a single reason to doubt that you deserve to be accepted.
6. DON’T: Let someone else fight your battles
Your parents are probably just as bummed as you are that you’ve been waitlisted. As much as they want to call the school and give them an earful of reasons why their baby is the perfect candidate, experts agree that this is a majorly bad idea. Schools want to see that you’re independent and don’t need mom and dad to stand up for you.
7. DON’T: Bother the admissions office
Waiting is hard, but calling the admissions office every day and asking about the status of your application will get you nowhere. Despite the way they sometimes sound on the phone, admissions officers are human beings too and are allowed to get annoyed. When it comes to decision time, you don’t want to be remembered as the girl or guy who called two million times.
It’s fine to call for information, such as asking what is the best way to contact your regional rep, but don’t just call to check in. It’s just like dating: you want to be the cool, hard-to-get fellow, not the needy girlfriend who calls five minutes after a date.
8. DON’T: Despair
A waitlist letter is by no means the end of the world. There’s a chance you’ll still be accepted, and, perhaps more importantly, if a school doesn’t want you, then you shouldn’t want it, either. Many schools reject or waitlist students because they aren’t a good fit for the school or the program, not because they’re bad students. If you are ultimately rejected, it’s likely for the best, because you’ll probably end up in a place that better suits you and your interests, and you’ll be much happier there.Maria Minsker is a junior English and communication double major at Cornell University. She is an aspiring journalist who loves to travel, try foreign cuisines and watch reruns of old sitcoms.