College Waitlist Wisdom: Turning A “Maybe” into A “Yes”

“It’ll all work out how it’s supposed to.”

 “If you’re supposed to go there, you’ll get in.”

“Don’t stress – there’s nothing you can do at this point anyways.”

If you’ve been waitlisted at your top choice school – or several of your top schools – you’ve probably heard these pieces of advice and reassurance. While these statements are certainly meant well, they may actually be a bit misguided. If you’re on a college waitlist and you’re desperate for acceptance, the last thing you should do is sit around and wait.

There are a lot of rumors about the mysterious college waitlist, and a popular one is that being waitlisted is equivalent to being rejected. This is not true – so don’t get frustrated if you’re in this position! In fact, you can typically find statistics for each college and university that will show how many waitlisted students are eventually accepted. Do not let a waitlisting shake your confidence. Now, it’s time to get to work and show the school why you should be accepted.

Step 1: Determine your plan of action.

Talk to your high school counselor or Enrichery coach to determine what you should do after being waitlisted. If the school is one of the top contenders, you should definitely accept a spot on the waitlist. If you’ve already been accepted to another school that you’ll likely choose, decline a spot on the waitlist so another prospective student can have it.

College Waitlist


Step 2: Make sure the school knows how badly you want it!

You may already be in contact with the admissions counselor for your geographic area, or you may need to hunt down their contact info. Send them a well-written email that reiterates how much you want to attend their university. Be sincere, and tell them the visions and hopes you have at their institution. Explain why you know this school is the perfect fit. Be honest: if you will absolutely attend their school if you are accepted, tell them that!

College Waitlist


Step 3: Enroll in your back-up school.

You may be passionate about attending College A, but you may not find out if you’re off the waitlist until the deadline for College B has passed. In your worst case scenario, you might miss out on College A and College B! Send in your deposit for College B by the deadline, and your new worst case scenario is losing that deposit if you ultimately get into College A.

College waitlist


Step 4: Remind the school how amazing you are.

If you absolutely dominate your AP exams or get a big award at Senior Night, e-mail your admissions counselor and let them know. If you have a current teacher who could write a great letter of recommendation, submit that. Don’t write in every time you get an A on an exam, but remind them that you’re a great student who wants to attend their school, and will put in the work to make it happen. That being said… put in the work! Keep up your grades and stay focused.

college waitlist


At the end of the day, college admissions counselors have the tricky job of filling all the open spots in the incoming class. They want to know that the people who are accepted will actually attend their school. After all, empty spots are no good for anyone. By working hard and reiterating your sincere interest in their school, you’ll be more likely to move from a “maybe” to an absolute “yes.”