College Waitlist: How to Ask About Waitlist Status?

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There’s no doubt that applying to colleges is stressful and overwhelming. You have to build and sort through your academic portfolio and extracurriculars to show universities that you’re the right fit for their institution. Perhaps, you’ve been waitlisted by your dream university, and you’re wondering how it affects your chances of getting in. Keep reading as we delve into the details regarding college waitlists and how you should navigate the waitlist status.

What Does it Mean When You Are Put on a College Waitlist?What Does it Mean When You Are Put on a College Waitlist?

Is the waitlist a good thing? When you get placed on a college’s waitlist, it means that upon reviewing your application, the admissions team decides that you possess all the necessary qualifications to attend. Still, they can’t offer you admission at that time. Being put on a college waitlist entails that you are somewhere between rejection and acceptance.

Don’t be alarmed because this doesn’t mean you should give up hope entirely- you still have a chance to be offered admission. However, it also isn’t a good idea to rule out the possibility of being denied admission after you’ve been placed on the waitlist.

Why Might Colleges Put a Student on a Waitlist?

Why Might Colleges Put a Student on a Waitlist?

Let’s take a look at a few reasons colleges put students on the waitlist:

It Helps Control the Admission Rate

Nowadays, most colleges want to be viewed as highly selective, so rather than just admitting a student whose achievements align with their competitive applicant pool, they wait to determine how interested the individual is in their institution by waitlisting them.

A college may be more willing to take you off the waitlist if you tell them you are ready to commit. This way, universities get to increase their yield rate (the student percentage of secured admissions) and control their admit rate.

Backup Plan

Suppose a university cannot meet its enrollment target for the incoming class. In that case, they enroll students on the waitlist as a backup. Very few colleges reach their target enrollment goal precisely as planned since it’s challenging to predict how many students will accept their admission offers.

You Require Considerable Financial Aid

A need-aware college that considers your ability to pay during the admissions process might put you on the waitlist if you require a lot of financial aid, even though you are a strong candidate. Unless colleges have sufficient financial aid budgets, they can’t fund every competitive student in their pool, or they might simply be choosing to spend their money elsewhere.

Low Test Scores

You could have a perfect application, but you are more likely to get waitlisted if your test scores are low. Waitlisting a student is a method used by universities to let them down gently with a positive message.

You Didn’t Demonstrate Interest in the College

You might get waitlisted If a certain college believes that you view it as a ‘safety’ school because you didn’t show enough interest. No college wants to be considered as your backup, and they’ll pass up on a highly competitive student for a less competitive one if there’s a bigger possibility of enrollment.

How Likely is it to Get Accepted After Being Waitlisted?

How Likely is it to Get Accepted After Being Waitlisted?

Like with the regular admissions process, universities have to evaluate their legacy status, institutional needs, yield, and other factors before deciding whether to admit any students from the waitlist. Now that you understand the waitlisted meaning, you should also know that waitlists aren’t ranked.

There’s no top student who will definitely secure admission if there’s room – things such as a student’s legacy status and major influence their odds of getting in over another waitlisted student. Although several colleges waitlist thousands or hundreds of students, not every student accepts a spot on the waitlist, which reduces the competition and increases your chances of getting admitted.

As for how often do waitlisted students get accepted? According to NACAC, 20% of waitlisted students are ultimately admitted. Keep in mind that at highly selective colleges or Ivy Leagues, the average is much lower and typically only 7% of students who accepted waitlist spots secure admission.

What to Do if You’re on a College Waitlist?

What to Do if You’re on a College Waitlist?

If you’re wondering how to respond to the waitlist status, fret not because we’ve got you covered. Here are some things you can do when a college waitlists you, especially if it’s your dream college:

Keep a Clear Head

Sometimes not knowing can be more frustrating than a direct ‘no.’ Understandably, you’ve worked hard to reach this point and want a clearer picture of the future. That’s why it’s essential to pause and clear your head. Determine what getting waitlisted implies for you and your academic career.

Consider Your Options

Even if you get waitlisted by your dream college, you’ll likely receive acceptance letters from other universities. Typically, applicants have to decide to commit by 1st May for most schools. However, waitlisted students don’t hear back from a school until after this deadline. If you’re in this situation, you can opt for one of the following options:

  • Decide after 1st May. Keep in mind that if you don’t get in off the waitlist, you’ll also have missed opportunities at the other schools you’ve applied to. Still, you can always secure admission in a community college since they accept students after 1st May.
  • It’s possible you may receive a response from the school before the 1st May deadline, so you can opt for waiting until the last minute before making a decision. At times it pays off to wait as long as possible.
  • Consider transferring at a later year. It’s in your best interest to talk to the admissions department about the application process for a transfer student.
  • It’s common for students to stay on the waitlist for a school and submit deposits to other colleges. You can submit a deposit to another university while you’re waiting to hear back from the waitlisted college. Unfortunately, deposits are mostly non-refundable, meaning you won’t get your money back.

Decline or Accept the Waitlist Spot

You can always reject or accept the offer presented by a college as a waitlisted student. However, if you plan on not attending, inform the college and don’t take the spot away from another student who really wants to go there.

Contact the Admissions Office

Getting waitlisted means you possess all the academic credentials required for admission. Think of how to write a college waitlist status email that ultimately holds the admission team’s attention, including additional information on nonacademic or academic factors that might help your case.

Let them know that you are serious about attending and show continued interest. Tell them why you’re a good fit and that you’ll enroll if they accept you.

Stay Involved

It would be best to maintain your commitment to extracurricular activities, like clubs or sports. Just because you were waitlisted doesn’t mean you were turned away- realize you’ve already achieved something.

Determine whether you’d be just as happy at one of your other options, and if yes, plan to attend that college and send in the deposit. You can then turn down your waiting list spot. Once you make a concrete decision, you’re bound to feel much better.

How to Write About Your Waitlist Status?

How to Write About Your Waitlist Status?

The best way to express interest in a college that has waitlisted you is by writing a letter detailing your passion for and interest in the college. In this section, we’ll give some tips on how to write an impressive letter to increase your chances of getting off the waitlist:

  • Ensure that the letter is full of humility, heartfelt, and upbeat.
  • If you’re willing to take the risk of waiting to get off the waitlist and enrolling, make it abundantly clear at the beginning of the letter- colleges want to be confident students will enroll if offered admission.
  • When discussing why you want to attend the college, forget about the common themes every student talks about, such as location, college diversity, or strong academic programs. Be specific about the one or two niches about the college that really inspire you and get personal about them. For example, if you’re interested in innovation and want to do research, you can relay how you felt walking into the campus laboratory for the first time.
  • Don’t hesitate to express how you feel – there’s no need to be unemotional. If you care about securing admission immensely, let the admissions team know why with honesty.
  • Be careful not to exceed one page for the letter, as admissions offices are used to reading one-page essays and lose interest when reading longer ones. Deliver every sentence with power and deliberation- every word should count!

Wrapping Things Up: College Waitlist: How to Ask About Waitlist Status?

Maybe you’ve been put on the waitlist by a college you wish to attend and have a thousand questions on your mind: When do waitlist decisions come out? How often do waitlisted students get accepted?  How to ask about waitlist status?

The best way to stay on top of this situation is to follow all the tips we’ve mentioned in this guide. Focus on achieving academic excellence, participating in extracurriculars, and maintaining a positive mindset during these nail-biting months.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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