College Waitlist Chances

When March rolls around, so do the final college admissions decisions. In addition to acceptances and rejections, you could possibly receive a notification that you have been put on a school’s waitlist. What does that mean for your chances of later being admitted to the college? Well, that is really a loaded question because the answer depends upon the school and its applicant pool.

What Does Being Put on the Waitlist Really Mean?

First, let’s address what being on a school’s waitlist means. A waitlist notification is not an acceptance and it’s not a decline. What happens is the college has accepted a certain amount of students and they’re going to wait to hear from those accepted students on whether they are going to attend the school before they decide if you will be admitted to the school. If there is a shortfall in the number of students that the college wants their freshman class to be, they may go to their waitlist to accept students who originally weren’t accepted, but weren’t declined, to ask them if they wish to attend the school. So being put on the waitlist is like being put on hold to see if you will be accepted.

What Are Your Chances of Being Waitlisted Turning into an Acceptance?

Whether you EVER come off of the waitlist really hinges on the school and what its applicant pool was like that year. By this we mean the pool’s qualifications, the number of students who were accepted, and the number of available slots. Where you fall on the waitlist also plays a role in your chances of being accepted. It comes down to how deep a school needs to dig into its waitlist to fill its incoming class numbers. There are some schools where students never come off the waitlist because they have received the number of students that they planned for to attend their school that fall. Many times, highly selective institutions never go to their waitlists and yet they put an inordinate number of students on it, providing them hope that they will eventually be accepted. I can’t say why they do this, but it can be heart wrenching to see a student keep their hopes up knowing that it most likely won’t happen.

In short, it’s hard to say whether you have hope of moving from that waitlist to the acceptance list. Your chances are very specific to each college.

If you have been put on the waitlist, here are some things you can do to improve your chances with a college:

Visit the campus, even if you have done so previously. Stop by the admissions office, take a tour and attend an information session. Try to meet with an admissions officer to let them know how much you want to attend their school.

If you don’t need financial aid, let the college know. Financial aid standing is often a component in selecting waitlist students for admission later.

Be accessible and ready to make a decision. Many times schools provide students with only 24-hours to make a decision once they have been offered admission. If you don’t respond in time, the school may remove you from the waitlist and move onto the next student on the list.

Don’t stay in limbo waiting to hear if you have been moved from the waitlist to the acceptance list. You really have no idea what your chances are of being accepted. Put a deposit on a college that you have been accepted to by that May 1 deadline that you would like to attend and move forward. Picture yourself there and start planning. You could be waiting a long time, if ever, to hear from the waitlist school.

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