Five Steps to Get Off the Waitlist

Updated April 2, 2019Fotolia_12377633_XS

Admission status letters have been emailed and mailed to high school seniors nationwide. An applicant will either be accepted by their first-choice school, rejected, or deferred, which is also referred to as being on the “waitlist.” Is that the end of your dream to go to a school? Maybe… but maybe not.

If you’ve been waitlisted, according to the “Fiske Guide to Colleges,” waiting passively for the college to contact you again is not best course of action. It’s time to make your absolutely best effort, in a proactive way.

Fiske recommends “going on the offensive.” You should send a deposit by May 1 to your first-choice school among those colleges who did accept you as a student, to be safe. Then, follow the steps below to try to get off the waitlist at your dream school.

The College Visit Now or Never

While we literally live on the premise that visiting colleges is super important, visiting a college at this point in the process may be the most important college visit you make. Plan to do that during the week, when the admissions office is open. Then work on the following steps:

  1. Send a letter ASAP to the admissions director emphasizing your unyielding desire to attend. State specifically why you think the match is a good one.
  2. Call to see if you can arrange a campus interview. “Students who have been offered regular admission waitlist status are well advised to pay a visit by mid-April, perhaps with a set of recent grades in hand,” says Peter Van Buskirk, former Dean of Admissions at Franklin and Marshall.
  3. Send examples of new work. This steps applies especially if you have an area of special talent.
  4. Talk to a current teacher to write a recommendation highlighting your recent achievements. Revisit  teachers who wrote letters for you previously to send updates.
  5. Ask your guidance counselor to write or call. See that the admissions office is kept up to date with your grades and other achievements.

Waitlists can be notoriously difficult places. While no method is foolproof, these steps could make a difference. If not, you might always wonder “what if.”