7 College Wait List Strategies

7 College Wait List Strategies
  • Opening Intro -

    You have just learned that you are in the equivalent of college purgatory.

    In other words, you have been wait listed by your top college choice.


Neither accepted nor rejected, you feel as if you have been left to twist in the wind. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can follow as you await a final decision on your college application.

Here’s what to do if you are on the dreaded wait list:

1. Accept the wait list invitation. You may have been invited to be wait listed, but unless you formally accept the invitation, your name won’t be added to the list. By all means go ahead and have your name added at once by accepting same.

2. Follow the deadlines. April is a busy month for college admissions professionals. They are actively enrolling students who have already been accepted by the school and are awaiting decisions from other students. In the interim, they will discover that some students will choose other colleges. It is at this point that spots will begin to open. You should have your documentation in order in the event that you go from the wait list to accepted. You may be given only a brief window to accept.

3. Communicate with the college. The period between being wait listed and receiving final notification of your status can be nerve wracking. Still, it behooves you to consider your strategy moving forward and consider how best to respond. One response would be to write a letter to the college’s admissions department to reiterate your interest in the school. What you will need to do here is find the name and title of an admissions officer and write that letter directly to him or her. Express your passion for the college, but not your desperation. You don’t need to repeat what you said in the application essay, but you should make known your interest in the school. Perhaps there is a recent achievement made that should be articulated to your college.

4. Get an updated recommendation letter from your guidance counselor or other individual. Since you applied to the college, things may have changed for you. You may have received National Honors Society recognition, completed a service project or attained some other academic or personal goal. The new information should be included in a modified recommendation letter from your guidance counselor or other person who previously recommended you.

5. Work your contacts. If you know of an alumni or other person well connected to the school, you might this individual to intercede on your behalf. Here, you will want to work with that person to ensure that your application gets a speedy review.

6. Visit the school, if possible. If you are able to visit the school at this time, then do so. Make a campus visit and be sure to stop by the admissions office. Explain that you are on the wait list and are eager to receive an acceptance letter. This does not mean that you will be quickly moved off the wait list, but your visit can underscore your interest in the school, resulting in such a move.

7. Accept your second choice. It can be agonizing to wait, especially as time moves on. It is at this point you should review your acceptance letters from other colleges and determine which of the second choices is best for you. Go with your second best choice and be satisfied with your decision.

College Wait Listing

Being placed on a wait list can be scary. At the same time, you need to maintain your focus and poise by keeping up your high school grades and considering your other choices. Chances are that if you are still on the wait list toward the end of the waiting period, you won’t be admitted. That isn’t the end of things for you — your other college choices are eager to accommodate you too.

See AlsoHow to Handle College Rejection


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Categories: College Planning