You anxiously await your college application responses and for many students, you receive the response that you have been waitlisted. What in the world does that mean? I’m not accepted but I’m not declined. What am I then? Well, you are kind of in limbo. And you ask yourself the question, “Can a waitlisted student get accepted?” The short answer is, maybe. Read on.
Let’s First Address What Being Waitlisted Means
When a student receives a response that they have been waitlisted at a school that they applied to, it means that that institution is waiting to hear from all of the students that they have accepted to see whether they will put down their deposit and decide to attend their school. Once the school has heard from these accepted students, and if they still need more students (see below about “Yield”), they will delve into their waitlist to begin accepting more students.
Yield and its Importance
Every school, for every entering freshman class the following academic year, has something called a “yield”. This is, essentially, what the school is budgeting for the number of freshman students they need to attend. This is a very important number since for most colleges this is a large portion of their revenue budget. When a school doesn’t meet their yield, they can suffer a huge impact on their budget and revenue needed to operate their school.
What Happens When You’re Waitlisted?
Being placed on a school’s waitlist lets you know that while you were a viable candidate for the incoming freshman class, they didn’t have room to accept you, but they also didn’t want to decline you. So will they accept you down the road? You shouldn’t count on it.
If you have been waitlisted, know that you may never receive a response from that institution after you have been notified that you are on their waitlist. The only time you will hear is if that school needs to go to their waitlist to accept more students in hopes that they will accept their acceptance and attend their institution. It all comes down to the yield numbers.
For the highly selective schools, there are very few students, if any, that are accepted off of the waitlist. The school might have put 300 students on the waitlist and maybe two were taken off and accepted. Some schools never even go into their waitlist. This disheartens us when a student is placed on a school’s waitlist since they still have hope that they will be accepted. Essentially, it extends the agony of waiting, when, for many students, they will never hear. It can be, and for many schools is, the big black hole of nothingness. We’re not trying to be the grim reaper, but just the voice of reality.
Hearing that you have been waitlisted typically occurs during the “Regular Decision” round of admission (not the “Early Action” or “Early Decision” rounds). The majority of the time, if you are one of the selected few students who hear that you have been accepted off of the waitlist, you will be notified after May 1st, which is the national deadline for high school seniors to submit their deposit and secure their spot at a college.
What to Do If You Have Been Placed on a Waitlist
If you are placed on a waitlist and you are still interested in that school, there are steps to follow to show your continued interest. You absolutely need to follow the instructions that the school sends to you, to the T. First, you will need to accept being placed on their waitlist, that is, if you are still interested. Some schools will allow you to submit additional information (e.g., new activities, additional information on existing activities, a resume if you hadn’t submitted one with your application or an updated resume if additional information has been added, and more current grades since you sent your transcript). How much this will help is unknown, but if a school allows you to submit this information, then by all means do.
What To Focus On if You Have Been Waitlisted – VERY IMPORTANT!
What you absolutely need to focus on prior to May 1st are the colleges that HAVE accepted you so you can decide which one institution you will put down your deposit on with the intent to attend. DO NOT focus on the school/schools where you have been placed on a waitlist. Remember, most of the time you will never hear from them. Focus on those colleges that want you, have accepted you, and have expressed that by asking you to attend.
If by some chance you do get taken off of a school’s waitlist and you want to attend that school, you need to rescind your acceptance from the school you put your deposit down on (and yes, this deposit is not refundable) and then accept the acceptance from the school where you were taken off of the waitlist. Typically, the school that has accepted you off of the waitlist will give you a very short window to accept, sometimes 24 hours.
Where to Go From Here
What we communicate to all of our students that have been waitlisted and are disheartened, and sometimes very distraught by this news, is to look at all of the schools that they have been accepted to. They are the ones that want you. Focus on them, NOT on those that waitlisted you. If you follow our advice about asking yourself the question, “With every school you apply to, if they are the only one you get accepted to, will you be happy to attend?” and your answer is “Yes”, then you are golden. Also know that once you accept an acceptance to the school of your choice, you won’t look back, and will look forward to your future. That is what matters.
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