Being put on a college waitlist isn’t technically a rejection. But dang if it doesn’t feel like one. All of your friends are excitedly ordering their school hoodies and t-shirts, while you’re stuck in the dreaded college admissions limbo.
We know, it hurts. After all, you probably spent a lot of time on your college applications: getting letters of recommendation, filling out the FAFSA, writing essays about how your mom’s homemade linguine shaped you as a person (look, not every essay was going to be a winner).
So, what do you do now? Here are a few strategies to help you make your next move after being put on a college waitlist.
1. Don’t Panic
After being put on a waitlist, many students suddenly start questioning everything. Why did I get waitlisted? What did I do wrong? Why was my application not strong enough?
Your confidence may be shook, but don’t let this keep you down. Remember, you meet the college GPA requirements and have impressive achievements. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been put on a college waitlist at all.
In fact, the decision to put you on a college waitlist often has nothing to do with the strength of your application at all. According to Inside Higher Ed, colleges that have large waitlists may be trying to protect their yield rate (the percentage of students who accept an offer of admission). Other schools use waitlists to help them build a freshman class that is well-rounded, diverse, and hits their enrollment targets precisely.
The bottom line: Keep your head up. You did nothing wrong.
Getting put on a college waitlist isn’t all bad — no, really! Being stuck in college admissions purgatory actually gives you a great opportunity to reevaluate your first-choice school.
Consider how you felt when you got waitlisted. Were you absolutely crushed? Or, perhaps, were you less disappointed than you thought you’d be? If your reaction was, “meh,” then maybe that wasn’t your dream school after all.
3. Make a Decision
After a little introspection, it’s time to decide whether you want to accept or reject your spot on the college waitlist. If you’re not that interested in attending the school, there’s really no point in staying on the list.
Even if you decide to stay on the waitlist, it’s important to have a backup plan. Hopefully, you’ve been exploring other schools and working on applications before now. (In case you haven’t, check out our guide – How to Apply for College – for some helpful tips.)
NGL, this is the hardest part. But it’s important for you to move on and start imagining other schools as your new home, just in case. Put down a deposit on another school and start applying for college scholarships. Trust that you’ll end up where you need to be in the end.
4. Express Your Continued Interest in Attending
OK, you’ve accepted the waitlist offer. Now what?
Consider writing a love letter to the school. Kidding, but not really. We’re referring to a “letter of continued interest,” which is exactly what it sounds like. You write a thoughtful letter or email that expresses your continued desire to attend the school that waitlisted you.
In your letter, make it clear that you will attend the school if you’re granted admission — but only if you mean it, of course. Also, be specific about why you want to attend.
You can also express your interest by requesting an interview with the school. This could be a good opportunity to talk about your recent accomplishments and to reiterate your desire to attend the school.
5. Keep Your Grades Up
Keep studying hard! Now is definitely not the time to let your grades slip. Colleges will often ask waitlisted students to submit their final grades to help them make a final decision, so don’t let “senioritis” tank your chances.
Set achievable goals, participate in class, and consider working with a tutor to raise your grades. Keep your eyes on the prize!
It’ll All Work Out in the End
Being put on a college waitlist can be super frustrating and discouraging. But take heart. You weren’t rejected. On the contrary, your application was so impressive that they don’t want to completely let you go! So, give yourself a pat on the back. And remember this: No matter what the final decision, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be.