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Waitlisted? The Admissions Waiting Game Continues

We look forward to this time of year every year — the time when college decisions are released. It marks years of hard work. It also brings with it hope for the future and a new beginning. And while we celebrate acceptances and grieve denials, many don’t know how to react to getting waitlisted.


This is mainly because most don’t understand what the waitlist means and also because students are truly just tired of waiting any longer. A waitlist offer tends to conjure more disappointment than hope. 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 and so admissions officers are forced to make 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.


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 I have seen students get offered a position off the waitlist in early August.


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. Collecting admissions offers is not the goal of the admissions process.


If you do want to stay on the waitlist, you will likely not get a decision back until after the May 1 deadline to accept an offer of admission. 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 come fall.


If you are accepted from the waitlist, you will likely have very little time to make a decision. If you decide to accept, you will need to first withdraw your Intent to Register from the school you accepted. Chances are your family will lose the deposit. It is a very easy process and it happens every year. You are not violating any agreements or laws.


Most students prefer the black and white of an acceptance or denial, but I always cheer for a waitlist. It’s still an accomplishment and should not be viewed as any less. Try not to dwell on the fact that you have to wait. Focus on the positives — you are going to college! What you have been working so hard for during the past several years is right in front of you. Enjoy this moment and savor it. It’s a time in your life like no other. 


If you need advice or would like to talk to a college admissions counselor, contact us at info@insight-education.net today! 


All the very best, 

Team Insight 

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