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When college decision letters start rolling in, the anticipation of being accepted or denied admission can feel overwhelming. The response in this letter could determine where you spend the next four or five years. But what if your response is “waitlisted”? How long will you have to wait until you find out if you will be attending that school in the fall?

When a college places you on the waitlist, you have met all qualifications for acceptance; however, there were more qualified applicants than openings. For example, if there are 500 openings for incoming freshman and 750 qualified applicants after all regular decision applications have been reviewed, the top 500 applicants will be accepted and the remaining 250 are waitlisted. When this occurs, applicants on the waitlist are ranked from highest to lowest according to their GPA, test scores, essay, etc. The highest ranked student on the waitlist is informed of his or her acceptance when a student that was initially accepted declines his or her admission.

Not every student on the waitlist will be accepted. If the majority of accepted students choose to attend that school and there are many students ahead of you on the waitlist, your chances of acceptance are minimal. Since the number of competitive, qualified applicants vary from year to year, the waitlist might be short one year and long the next.

If you’ve applied early decision to your top choice school, you will either receive a decision letter in the winter or be notified of deferment to the regular admission pool. In the case of a deferral, your application will be placed aside and reconsidered with all the other regular decision applications. If you’ve applied regular decision you will find out in the spring if you have been waitlisted, and you might not hear if you’ve been accepted until the end of July.

The good news about being waitlisted is that your application was strong enough to make the list! The bad news is that you are not guaranteed admission and you won’t know if there is an opening for you at that school until all accepted students have submitted their commitment. These variables can make it tricky when deciding if you are willing to wait for an acceptance letter.

Occasionally, it can be easy to decide what to do when waitlisted. If you are waitlisted by your number three school and accepted into your top two schools, you won’t be waiting on the list of your third-choice school. Let the school know you have accepted admission elsewhere so they can take your name off the waitlist. However, if you are waitlisted by your top school and accepted into your second-choice, or backup, school, it’s a little more complicated. You can always accept admission at your second-choice school and wait to hear from your first-choice school. Make sure you let the school know you would like to remain on the waitlist and feel free to submit additional information for consideration, such as awards, honors, or improved grades over the past semester. Then place a deposit on your backup school to ensure you have a place to go next fall.

Before deciding to wait it out, contact the admissions office and ask these questions:

  • Where am I ranked on the waitlist?
  • How many students have been waitlisted in the past?
  • Of those students, how many were accepted into the college?

No matter how disappointed you might feel about being waitlisted, it’s a huge accomplishment to make the list! If you need help deciding what to do, give us a call.