Waitlisted? Here Are Your Options

Waitlisted? Here Are Your Options

Getting waitlisted at your top-choice school can be disheartening. But, experts say, there are steps that waitlisted applicants can take to help get off the waitlist and admitted. US News recently spoke to experts on why colleges even use waitlists and what waitlisted applicants should do.


There are a number of reasons why colleges utilize waitlists. One reason why, experts say, is to have a backup plan.

“Colleges need to have a waitlist as a backup plan in case they don’t meet their enrollment target for the incoming class,” Sara Harberson, a college counselor, says in a blog post. “By the way, few colleges are able to meet their enrollment target exactly on point as it is difficult to predict how many students will accept the offer of admission.”

Another potential reason, according to Harberson, is to control the admit rate.

“So instead of just admitting a student who is competitive in their pool who might have many offers of admission, they wait to see how interested the student is in them once waitlisted,” Harberson says. “If the student comes back to them ready to commit after being waitlisted, the college might be more willing to admit them off the waitlist as they know they have a better chance of enrolling the student. This is a way for a college to control their admit rate and increase their yield rate (the percentage of students who accept the offer of admission).”


Waitlisted applicants have a few options available to them if they want to get admitted. The first option is to accept or reject the waitlist offer. But experts stress the importance of only accepting waitlist offers from top-choice schools.

“If they stay on the waitlist with no intention of attending that school, then they are essentially taking a seat from a student who would have loved to attend that school,” Christopher Rim, founder and CEO of the admissions firm Command Education, tells US News.

Another option waitlisted applicants can take is to demonstrate interest in the school via email.

“Many schools do consider demonstrated interest during this time, which means letting the college know that you are still interested in attending can bump you closer to the top of the list,” Carolyn Pippen, master college admissions counselor at college counseling firm IvyWise, tells US News. “This is because, when the time comes, the school wants to admit students who will accept their offers quickly and get them to their target enrollment numbers as early in the summer as possible.”

It’s important to have a backup plan in the case that you don’t get admitted to your top-choice. Experts recommend that waitlisted applicants submit a deposit to another university before the May 1 deadline.

“Start getting excited about the options you have,” Ellen Chow, dean of undergraduate admissions at Johns Hopkins University, tells US News. “While it may not have been your top choice at the beginning of the process, starting to picture yourself as a student there and learning more about the academics, programs and student body could change your mind.”

Sources: US News, Sara Harberson

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