fbpx Fall SAT starts on Oct 2. Click here to join us!

Waitlist and Appeal – What Should You Do?

We always look forward to this time of year filled with excitement — the time when college decisions are released. It marks years of hard work and dedication. It also brings with it hope for the future and a new beginning. And while we celebrate acceptances and struggle with denials, many don’t know how to react to getting waitlisted. In this article, we will explain waitlisting and what you can do, as well as whether you should appeal a denial.

A waitlist offer tends to conjure more disappointment than hope. This is mainly because most don’t understand what the waitlist means and because students are truly just tired of waiting any longer. Many students take this to mean that they fell short or that they are a college’s second, third or 40th choice.

 

But what does being offered a position on the waitlist mean?

Colleges have limited seats available to offer which leaves admissions officers having to make some tough choices. When they are offering you a waitlist position, they are sending you the message that they think you are a great fit for the class and your accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. You would be a fantastic addition to the campus, but they need to see how many admitted students will accept their offers of admissions before they pull students off the waitlist to fill any open spots in the freshman class.

Most waitlists are unranked. Colleges are not lying when they say that. It is not some ploy to appease you. Remember that admissions officers are trying to build a well-rounded class. Once the college receives the decisions from its admitted students, they then go through the waitlist to see which students would best complement the incoming class.

At this point, they may also need to evaluate the financial aid it has available to offer students. Accordingly, they will admit students off the waitlist in small batches, offering more spots as they become available. This process is usually complete no later than June, but in very rare situations we have seen students get an offer of admission from the waitlist in early August. This was particularly true during the summer of 2020 due to the impact that Covid had on admissions outcomes for the high school class of 2020.

Wondering what you can do to get off the waitlsit? Contact us today!

Although in our experience students do indeed get off waitlists successfully, it is vitally important that you not rely on a waitlist position. Unfortunately, some colleges are putting thousands of kids on a waitlist and admitting few students. In 2019, 48% of schools admitted less than 10% of students that accepted a waitlist position. Seven percent admitted no one. In that same year, the University of Michigan offered more than 12,000 students a waitlist position and only admitted 89 students. Similarly, UC Irvine offered a waitlist position to more than 17,000 students (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden and almost twice the size of the incoming freshman class) and offered spots to 1,600 students. Private schools are no less predictable. Dartmouth took no one off the waitlist while Boston University later offered spots to 11% of students that accepted the waitlist. Conversely, Vanderbilt is well known for the fact that ten percent of their freshman class has historically come from an original waitlist position.

While you are waiting for the waitlists to clear, you must accept a position at another school. You should also be excited about that offer and have the full intention of attending and graduating from that university. If a waitlist offer from a school you love DOES come through, you will absolutely have the option to accept that position and withdraw from your original school. In some years, waitlists can clear as late as just a couple of weeks before classes start. You don’t want to be waiting by the mailbox – virtual or real.

 

What can I do about being waitlisted?

It may sound like the college has all the power in this situation. But you do not need to just comply and play the waiting game. Think clearly about whether or not the school or schools that offered you waitlist positions are among your top choices. You are not obligated to accept the position. If it is not a school you would seriously consider, politely turn it down and give another student a chance. Chances are that by declining a waitlist spot you are helping a student or even a close friend at your own high school. Collecting admissions offers is not the goal of the admissions process. Finding a school where you thrive both academically and socially is the actual goal.

If you do want to stay on the waitlist, you are unlikely to get a decision back before the May 1 SIR deadline. This means you must decide among the colleges that accepted you where you will attend. Do not rely on the waitlist. It is completely unpredictable how many students will be offered spots off the list. It can vary from 0 to 300 depending on the college and the year.

While you wait, be excited about your other prospects. Do your due diligence. Visit colleges. Talk to current students. Get engaged with the school you accept. Chances are strong that the college where you submit your Intent to Register is where you will be in Fall.

If you are accepted from a waitlist, you will have very little time to decide. If you decide to accept, you will need to first withdraw your Statement of Intent to Register from the school you accepted. Chances are your family will lose the deposit. It is an extremely straightforward process, and it happens every year. You are not violating any agreements or laws. They may ask you for proof that you were admitted from a waitlist.

 

Can I do something about denials? Should I appeal?

Yes, and no. We get a lot of requests to help with appeals for students who just can’t understand why they received the decision that they did. As tough as it can be to hear, more often than not, the denial decision from a college is the final decision, and launching an appeal process will be unsuccessful because they do not allow them.

However, a great reason to put an appeal together, assuming the university in question offers an appeal process, is if there was something missing from your application. Something you didn’t tell colleges about that you probably should have!

We have worked with students who have successfully appealed a denial because they were afraid to discuss something like a personal struggle that would have given colleges context about why their academic performance wasn’t a strong as it otherwise may have been. Or, not explaining a dip in grades in their application and just glossing over it, hoping that the college didn’t notice.

Another reason could be a major accomplishment may have occurred in the time between submitting the application and receiving the decision! This can be a wonderful thing to make sure the college is aware of. Not all schools will look at new information, so do your research on what constitutes the basis of an appropriate appeal for each university.

Whatever the reason may be for why essential information wasn’t included in the application, those are the types of things we will be looking for if a student comes to us wanting to launch an appeal. It needs to be based on some information that you are ADDING to your file that was missing from the original application.

So, when you receive your decisions and start to think about your next steps, keep in mind the types of information necessary to launch a successful appeal and see if you have any of those. Completing an appeal takes work, time, and emotional energy, so it is important to make sure you understand all your options and if this is the right one for you.

We work with students and families on appeals, waitlists, and college decision meetings. Reach out to us today at info@insight-education.net for more information!

 

All the very best!

Team Insight

Blog Post

What Are Insight Students & Parents saying?
  • Thank you so much for helping me formulate my thoughts into words and help me write my essays. I got into Ut Austin for biology – still waiting for the Honors decision. I also got into Drexel undergrad – still waiting for the BSMD decision. I will be sure to update you when I hear […]

  • I just wanted to thank you again for your help during the college admission process. My family and I have been scrambling to figure out the process for years, and especially coming from an immigrant family and being the first in my family to go to college in the US, there was a lot of […]

  • I really couldn’t have gotten to Harvard without you. In shock. Thank you x10000000000000! I have the best college counselor in the world!

  • I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to organize a meeting with me and help me in writing my summer program essays. Your feedback really helped my writing and me as a writer. 

  • I just got my SAT scores on Friday, and I am happy to let you know that I scored an 800 on both the Biology-M and Math II tests. Thank you so much for your help and constantly encouraging me. Also, please thank the rest of the Insight team for me for providing complimentary practice […]

  • Our ACT instructor methods were so helpful and wonderful to have.

  • Zach, thank you so much for helping me become a confident and successful writer

  • We were extremely happy throughout the process – got much more than what we invested in Insight counseling.

  • From their knowledge of all the colleges and resources, professionalism and the hands-on coaching, Insight has raised the bar!  

  • Insight counselors truly care about students not only during their time at Insight but further along the road.

Contact Us