Getting waitlisted may seem like the end of the world, but you can still get accepted into the university (Image via Liberation Way)
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Getting waitlisted may seem like the end of the world, but you can still get accepted into the university (Image via Liberation Way)

Your dream college waitlisted you. Now what?

As you open a letter from a college you applied to, you might be met with something similar to the following: “We appreciate the thoughtfulness and hard work you put into your application and acknowledge your strong interest in *insert university here.* After careful consideration and a thorough review of your candidacy, we are offering you a place on our waitlist.”

Initially, when you don’t see the iconic congratulations at the beginning, you automatically become discouraged and believe you have no chance. But, people need to understand that waitlisted doesn’t mean denied.

Whether you’ve applied to three schools or 13, getting a letter saying a college waitlisted you doesn’t mean that school is out of the running. For some reason, people have a tendency to think that being on the waitlist means they didn’t make it. Typically, however, a college wouldn’t bother to waitlist someone if they weren’t considering them for acceptance.

Not to mention the main reason why colleges waitlist people is because of a lack of space at the university. Ultimately, if you’re passionate about a school that waitlisted you, the decision to pick that college can be worth it.

Unfortunately, seniors in high school feel that they have to have their college picked out as early as possible, with May 1 being the latest date to make a decision. Furthermore, telling your friends that you’ve decided to take a chance on a school that waitlisted you can feel like a risk.

That said, when making a decision about which college to go to, everyone wants security in their choice. Without a safety net, the future can be scary, and choosing to pursue the school that hasn’t officially accepted you yet is a big uncertainty.

In the end, you can’t let the fear of unpredictability stop you from pursuing a college that you’re interested in. At the core of it, waitlisted means that the college wants you to come to their school, but they don’t have enough room.

As a result, you have to have patience. For instance, some schools can make last-minute decisions and invite someone from the waitlist the day before orientation.

Occasionally, high school seniors will receive a message saying that they’ve been waitlisted but can come the following semester. When I was a senior in high school, one university waitlisted me, and the admissions office said that I could start attending the university in spring 2015.

For me, the school wasn’t in my top two, so I didn’t worry about it. That said, others may be in a position where this is the school they really want to attend, so they should make some sacrifices.

Starting a college a semester later can sound like the end of the world, but you shouldn’t miss an opportunity just because you won’t start at the same time as others. Not only is pressure to begin as soon as possible a factor, another part of the fear and uncertainty of being waitlisted is how to proceed and show the college your interest.

After a college waitlists you, the next step is to write them a letter to express your interest and appreciation (Image via Video Blocks)

After receiving the letter, the next step is to take control of the situation. If you’re serious about the college, contact the admissions office, and ask them about your status. Surprisingly, most universities will tell you your standing and how their waitlist process works — whether it’s ranked or free for all.

Once you learn how they handle people on their waitlist, write a follow-up letter. By writing a letter, you can express your continued interest in the school and show your gratitude for their consideration.

When writing, think about what tone you’re conveying; after all, you don’t want to come off as angry or presumptuous. If you’re unsure how to go about writing a follow-up letter, look at some examples.

Potentially, the school could reevaluate you based on your last marking period in high school, so don’t let senioritis take over. To keep your chances high, continue to study hard and show the college that no matter the time of year, you put in the effort.

At the same time, don’t overdo it. While you want to hear back as soon as possible, continuously pestering the admissions office will send the wrong message. Although the gesture is in good nature, it will come off as annoying and hinder your chance of getting in.

Now that you’ve started the process of showing your dedication to the school and know what to avoid, you have to be aware of some factors to think about that come with your position on the waitlist.

How long are you willing to wait? As stated before, universities can admit people the day before orientation, but will anyone still be interested? With this in mind, you can put down a deposit for another school, and if you hear back from the one you’re waitlisted at, you can change your mind. Unfortunately, you can’t get the deposit back, but you will get to go to the school you really want attend.

If the university accepts you but asks you to come a semester later, housing is something you’re going to have to think about. Although not guaranteed, housing on campus may be available depending on the number of students that drop out. If none is available, apartment hunting is something that you’ll have to dive into.

While the situation may not be ideal, don’t let the word “waitlisted” stop you from pursuing a college you’re interested in. Just remember, waitlisted doesn’t mean denied.

Writer Profile

Erin Marie Winans

James Madison University
English / Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication

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