A lot goes into your college applications. You’ve spent years taking the right classes, earning the grades, and boosting your resume. Getting accepted to your dream school would certainly make it all feel worth it, but what happens if you find out you’ve been put on a college waitlist or deferred?
If you apply to college during the regular decision cycle, you will hear back from schools around March. You’ll typically be notified by email that you can check the college’s website, though some schools still send a letter as well. Most of the time you will see one of the following: accepted, rejected, waitlisted, or deferred. You have until May 1 to send in your final decision.
Here’s what you might hear from colleges and what that means for you:
The first 2 are pretty straightforward, but being waitlisted or deferred can be a little more complicated.
Why do colleges have a waitlist?
Colleges put students on the waitlist because they know not everyone who gets accepted will end up going. Most students apply to many schools, and many will receive acceptances from more than one. Your college wants to make sure they have a full freshman class, even when some students choose another college, take a gap year, or join the workforce or military.
When spots open up, they’ll begin contacting students on the waitlist to admit them.
Even if you wind up on the waitlist, you still need to make a plan assuming you won’t get in. The percent of students who will be admitted from the waitlist varies by college, but it’s usually a small number.
When you decide on a school, you will likely have to make a deposit, and you should do that for your first choice school that accepted you outright. If you are admitted to a school from the waitlist, you can choose to go there instead, though you do typically forfeit your deposit. You also won’t receive a financial aid package from any schools that put you on the waitlist, so don’t assume that getting in will mean getting the scholarships you need to attend.
Instead of worrying about schools where you were waitlisted, focus on the colleges where you were accepted. Even if you’re thinking about saying yes to your second choice, make sure it will be a good fit if you end up going there. Remember too that you can always look into transfer opportunities in the future.
No matter why you were deferred or waitlisted, stay committed to your class work and extracurricular activities. It also can be a good idea to interact with the schools that waitlisted or deferred you by visiting, doing an alumni interview, or participating in an informational session. Be thoughtful, though—calling or emailing the admissions office numerous times will not help and may actually hurt your chances of getting in.