Make Your Decision

Riding Out the College Wait List

Being placed on a wait list can be particularly frustrating, but don't despair. You still have a chance of getting into your target school—you just have to be pro-active. But why did they wait-list you in the first place?

Being wait-listed usually means that you've already qualified academically for the college, but there are other factors in play. Your grades might be borderline, your extracurriculars might be weak, or the school might have had a tremendous amount of equally qualified students. The good news is that you haven't been rejected. The bad news? Well, you're not quite in yet.

Understand What You're Up Against
To understand the concept of a wait list, it helps to know how colleges use them. This information can help you decide the best way of moving from admission limbo into the college dorms. Colleges will decide to admit a wait-listed student to their school for a variety of reasons. They might admit students from the list to balance the class in terms of male-female enrollment, geographic or racial distribution, or even as a courtesy to an alumnus of the college.

While you remain on the wait list, remember that the possibility of admission still exists—so stay positive! Some colleges prioritize applicants on a wait-list and are willing to inform students of their position. Knowing that you are number 17 out of 400 is far more encouraging (and useful) than finding out that you're #369. If you find out that you are high on the list, make a decision on whether you want to attend the school in advance of the actual notification, since a wait-listed student is often only given a day or two to respond to an offer.

What To Do If You're Waitlisted
First of all, make sure to check out "strings" that may be attached to wait-list status. For example, students placed on a wait list may not be entitled to preferential housing choices or financial aid. If you are not depending on a hefty financial offer, and if housing at the college is guaranteed for all freshmen, then you have nothing to lose by indicating interest in remaining on the wait-list.

And if you are still interested, definitely contact the school. Even at this point, there are many actions you can take to influence an admissions decision. Write an impassioned letter explaining why the college should admit you; the admissions committee may well choose a motivated and eager student (that would be you) before the hundreds of other students on the wait list. Point out factors that may not have been obvious on your application. If possible, elicit support from an alumnus of the college, or try to visit the college again to court favor with admission officers.

Being creative and persuasive at this point can only help. This is not the time to be timid. Wait-listed students who have made themselves known to the admissions committee are better able to position themselves for favorable decisions, so pull out any stops (within reason, of course) to enhance your chances. Generally speaking, nonacademic factors may sway an admissions decision more than academic criteria, since being wait-listed usually means the college has already determined that you are capable of handling the school's academic demands.

In addition, keep your guidance counselor informed, and find out what your high school is able to do to further support your chances. If your senior year grades have remained high, request that they send your third quarter (or trimester) grades to the college; after all, it can't hurt. Has anything in your record changed for the better? Would the college be interested in reviewing another recommendation? Before flooding the admissions office, try to learn what information may help your chances.

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