After so many weeks and months of hard work put into applying to your dream schools, it can feel confusing and disappointing to receive news that you have been placed on the waitlist. While this may not be the ideal income of the admissions process, a waitlist decision does not mean all you have left to do is “wait.” In this article, we’ll outline some powerful steps you can take to make the most of this waitlist decision and advocate for yourself.
What does being waitlisted mean?
It’s important to remind yourself that a waitlist decision is not a rejection! The college admissions cycle is growing more competitive each year. Being waitlisted is evidence that your application was impressive and memorable, but that you are a member of a highly competitive applicant pool. Colleges have a limited number of seats to offer and need to admit a well-rounded class, often allocating seats based on various criteria including major choices and the likelihood a student will accept their spot.
The first step to take after being offered a place in the waitlist is to accept that spot. Before doing so, think deeply about the pros and cons of accepting the spot. We recommend accepting the waitlist spot if you are confident this school is a good fit for you and your goals. If this college is not one you would attend if offered admission and you have acceptances at other colleges, perhaps rejecting the spot on the waitlist is the right choice for you. This can allow you to commit your focus to the school that you plan on attending.
Once you accept the waitlist spot, your task is to demonstrate to the college that you would definitely attend this school if accepted. If you are offered the option to submit a waitlist letter to the admissions board, we highly recommend taking this step! It demonstrates your continued interest in the college and shows that you are a young adult who can advocate for themselves. Of course, always check the college’s website and waitlist rules first – some colleges may have restrictions about what you can submit when on the waitlist.
A Strong Waitlist Letter
Before sitting down to write a waitlist letter, start with some deep thinking. Why do you want to attend this college? Did your application effectively express why this school was a good fit for you?
If the answer to the second question is “no” or “I’m not sure”, take a look at your application package and identify its strengths and weaknesses. When first applying, did your application lack volunteer work? Were you proud of your excellent math scores but worried about your physics grade? Your application will naturally have strong points and places for growth – no application is 100% perfect.
The waitlist letter provides a unique opportunity to address these areas of growth. Once you’ve decided where you can improve, consider how you’ve shown growth in those areas over the past few months. For example, do you have additional test scores or improved grades in certain subjects? Have you begun a new extracurricular activity or job since the application deadline? Did you win any awards during application season? Add this updated information to your waitlist letter!
Additionally, every waitlist letter must include a paragraph demonstrating continued interest in attending the college. The admissions committee wants to be confident that you would accept a spot in their school if you got in off the waitlist. This paragraph might reference your experience visiting campus or talking to an alumni interviewer. You might be confident that you want to attend this school and would choose it above all others. But does the college know that about you? Use the waitlist letter to make sure they know!
The waitlist letter must support the original narrative presented to the admissions committee in their initial application. It should provide supplemental information, not change what makes you unique. Admissions committees are impressed by a consistent, unique narrative and personal growth. Staying true to your values, interests, and goals will help you find a college community that is the right match for you.
Letter of Recommendation
In addition to a waitlist letter, some colleges allow you to send an additional letter of recommendation to demonstrate growth to the admissions committee. Choose a recommender who can speak to specific subject areas or skills that may not have been as strong when first applying. If your writing skills have improved, ask a writing teacher to highlight your recent growth in their letter of recommendation. If the first application lacked extracurricular activities, choose an extracurricular advisor to share how you began building leadership skills on a team.
Veritas Education offers a Recommendation Letter/Counselor Packet Service that teaches students how to craft strong contents for their recommenders, which will help them stand out. If you chose to ask for an additional letter of recommendation when you are on a waitlist, you’ll want to make sure your new recommender (whether it’s your school principal or another teacher) has a strong sense of who you are as a student and individual.
Explore your Options
Now that you know how to advocate for your admission off the waitlist, there is one more important step to take.
Get excited about the schools you were accepted to! The probability of being accepted off the waitlist can vary drastically from school-to-school and from year-to-year. Because it’s so hard to predict, you should be prepared to accept a spot at another college by the May 1st deadline and start planning to attend that school. See if there is an admitted student day to attend, or summer activities on campus to get you excited about joining that college community! If you receive positive news about your spot on the waitlist, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which school is the right one for you.
If you are looking for further information about how to present your best self to the admissions committee, Veritas Education has numerous resources on this subject. Read our recent post Can Social Media Affect You College Applications? and learn how to be mindful of your social impact as a young person.