What Does It Mean To Be Waitlisted For Colleges?

Preparing for college has proven to be exciting and straining as well for most high schoolers. Amidst writing college essays and sending applications to your desired school, it can be quite unnerving waiting for your application’s acceptance hopefully. However, most applicants do not have the luck of receiving a straight yes or no but are forced to the grey side of being waitlisted. With the confusion and pressure building, it is understandable to wonder what this means and how it decides your fate. In this article, you will understand what a college waitlist is, what it means to be waitlisted, the reasons why and the next steps of action. Here we will see about What Does It Mean To Be Waitlisted For Colleges?

What Does It Mean To Be Waitlisted For Colleges?

What Is A Colleges Waitlist, What It Means To Be Waitlisted?

A college waitlist, as the name implies, is similar to a ‘waiting room’. Here, a student’s application is reviewed by the college’s admissions counsellor, but the school doesn’t offer admission yet for specific reasons.

A college waitlist provides the school with a pool of qualified students because colleges usually accept more applicants than they need for an incoming class. After all, not every accepted applicant chooses to attend the school. This may seem incomprehensible, but many applicants usually decline their admissions to schools, including top schools like Harvard.

Therefore, colleges employ waitlists to lower their acceptance rate while raising their yield. This means that rather than accepting many applicants at once, they offer waitlist spots to some applicants and then later pick applicants who indicate keen interest and commitment to attending the school if they are offered a spot. This boosts the school’s yield rather than wasting the offer on one who wouldn’t accept the admission.

As more spaces are left open by those rejecting their admission, waitlisted applicants are then picked to fill the spot.

From the above, it is obvious that being waitlisted isn’t always about a student’s application but rather a school’s technique of managing its class size and capacity and ensuring that the most qualified that will accept the admission spot is selected.

So while it’s quite disappointing when one gets waitlisted, it is neither an acceptance or rejection with the balance tilting more to acceptance depending on how selective a school is. 

A waitlist though is also more like having one’s fingers crossed because as much as one wants to deny this, there is as much possibility of being denied admission and as much possibility of being accepted after being placed on the waitlist.

Whatever the outcome, being waitlisted isn’t all gloom and doom, and there are no hard feelings against you on the school’s side. There are only a few reasons why you’ve been waitlisted.

So why have I been waitlisted, you ask?

Among the many reasons why a school will place an applicant on their waitlist, we’ll discuss two common reasons:

– For one, it could be that the school’s deciding if there will be enough open spaces for the incoming class compared to the number of applications received. To manage their class size, they take time to determine how many accepted students do enroll at the school and make attendance while offering other applicants a space on their waitlist.  At this point, if there is more room for waitlisted applicants, the school can then accept a number of them.

– Another reason is that you could be a borderline candidate. This means your application isn’t exactly as impressive as it should be. For example, it could be that your grades or test scores aren’t too good even though you put together a well-written essay. It could also mean your application is lacking in some aspects, like your participation in volunteer or extracurricular activities lacking depth.

Other reasons could be that several students have applied for a similar academic interest but will be considered before you because they applied earlier.

What To Do When Waitlisted?

Now that you know why you’ve been waitlisted, you should be contemplating the action to take next and not entertaining a pity party. As earlier mentioned, being waitlisted isn’t rejection, and here are a couple of next steps to take: 

– Make a decision and plan your next step: One thing you should know about being waitlisted is that you can choose to reject or accept the waitlist spot. So If you know you won’t be able to bear being waitlisted, you could decline the spot but note that this is a permanent decision as the college will no longer consider you for admission, even if more spaces become available later.

– Have a backup plan: The backup plan here is simply having a backup school. It is wise to choose a backup school since you aren’t more or less sure of being considered for admission at your desired school. It is important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Now wait-list decisions are not released until the 1st of May. Hence if you’ve been waitlisted you should have chosen a backup college before then Incase you don’t get admitted to your first-choice school.

In choosing a backup school, you might need to pay a deposit, so you can notify the school of a change of plan if you don’t get off the waitlist of your first choice. You should also know that the deposit paid isn’t refundable.

– Build and improve your application: Most colleges are always monitoring the applications of their waitlisted applicants to determine if they would later consider them for admission. Hence knowing the reasons you’ve been waitlisted is a great time to improve possible lacking areas in your application- you could retake the SAT or ACT exams, participate fully in more extracurricular activities, and continue to maintain or even raise your GPA. You don’t want to let your guard down while on the waitlist, because a slight determent could hurt one’s chances of getting off the waitlist or getting accepted.

– Show continued interest: Considering why some colleges use the waitlist technique as earlier mentioned, it is quite obvious that they would want to hear from their waitlisted applicants. Hence, upon accepting a waitlist offer you should write a letter of continued interest to the school indicating your desire and commitment to getting accepted to the school.

In this letter, you could also mention your recent accomplishments and the improvements you’ve made to your application. This keeps you in mind, shows how serious you are about getting admission, and helps to build a relationship with the school. You should, however, not flood the school’s admissions office with too many recommendations or phone calls but rather provide the necessary information when the school requests more.

– Keep in touch with the school’s admissions process: It is tempting to want to close all lines of communication with the school when waitlisted. However, you shouldn’t give up easily, especially if you’re keen on studying at that institution. It is essential to inquire about the additional steps you’d need to take, as schools always take note of waitlisted applicants that keep in touch frequently and promptly through the admissions process.

– Above all,  remain patient and hopeful because, in the end, the ultimate decision lies with the school and not you. All you need to do is to focus on the things you have control over, take the necessary actions, have a backup plan, and improve your application.

Chances Of Getting Off The Wait-list

Statistics from the NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counselling) have shown that students placed on a waitlist have about a 20% possibility of being accepted. Here is a sample of two competitive schools and their waitlist admissions in 2020:

Amherst college offered waitlist spots to 1,640 applicants of which 1,081 accepted the spot and only 7 applicants were admitted off the waitlist.

UCLA offered 14,470 applicants waitlist spots of which 9,254 applicants accepted the spots and 1,779 applicants admitted off the waitlist.

In all, less selective schools admit 20% of waitlisted applicants on average while highly selective schools admit 7% of applicants off the waitlist. It can be seen that although college waitlists are used to ensure diversity or as a tool to hit enrollment targets, the chances of being accepted off the waitlist depend on how selective a school is.

What Happens If One Doesn’t Make It Off The Waitlist?

Sometimes, things don’t always go the way we hoped and though it hurts, it isn’t the end of the world and points boldly to why one should have a backup plan. 

Now, you should know that before you start applying to schools, you need enough guidance to have an idea of what your reach school, safety school, and first-choice school are. Although it’s great to have your dream school, it is safe and precautionary to know how their admission process runs and what their admission status is like. If you’re applying to a highly selective school, you might want to either meet up to their standard efficiently or risk being waitlisted. Whatever the case, it is safer to have a solid backup school.

Nevertheless, if you’re not offered admission to your desired school, you can consider other options you have, start afresh and make use of the knowledge you’ve gained from being rejected. 

If you also did not make proper preparations for being rejected admission, you could apply to schools with rolling admissions. These schools don’t normally have a set deadline for submitting applications, they usually consider and accept applications until there aren’t any more spaces available in their incoming class.

A Deferral vs A Waitlist

A Deferral is another grey side of the admission process but as opposed to ‘waitlists maybe’, one won’t be receiving an early admission decision.

Being waitlisted means your application has been reviewed but you won’t be offered a letter of acceptance at that time depending on the school’s reasons while being deferred means the school will review your application at a later time and can choose to accept, reject or waitlist you.

Also, a deferred college admission usually occurs in schools that offer early action/decision, and students who apply by the required admission deadline most times cannot receive a deferral letter.

Here, schools pick the strongest applicants (Those who meet the requirements higher than other applicants) from the early admission pool before considering the rest of the applicant pool. Students that fall under this category mostly receive a deferral letter.

Regardless, just as being waitlisted, deferred applicants also have chances of being considered for admission depending on the number of applicants and the qualifications of applicants in the admission pool.

If you’ve received a deferral letter, you might want to reevaluate your top college choices and pursue other colleges. You might also be asked to provide additional information to the school’s admissions office and you will need to improve your application as well.

In conclusion, as much as a waitlist seems like a subtle means of rejection, it is part of a school’s admission process in managing its class size and capacity. Therefore, rather than feeling disappointed when waitlisted, you should console yourself by knowing that the school considers you much to be on its waitlist and then follow the next steps of action indicated in this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

– How long does it take to get off a college’s waitlist?

There is no specific time and it could take weeks, months, or even weeks before the fall term starts before receiving an official acceptance or rejection. However, getting off a college’s waitlist depends on the availability of open spaces for its incoming class.

– What are the chances of acceptance from the college waitlist?

According to NACAC’s 2019 state of college admission report, 20% of incoming applicants were admitted off the waitlist. Therefore, the chances of being admitted off the waitlist depend on how many students accept a school’s admission, and how selective the school is, judging from their previous waitlist admissions.

– Can I get waitlisted for an early decision?

No, your application can only be rejected or deferred if you apply for an early decision.

– Should I accept a college waitlist spot?

This depends largely on how committed and determined you are to studying in a particular college and how it compares to other schools you’ve been forced to pick because your desired school has waitlisted you. You might also want to consider the cost of studying in the school that waitlisted you and how selective they are.