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  • Jill Madenberg

4 Strategies to Improve Your Chances of Admission After Being Waitlisted


You may learn that your application has neither been accepted nor rejected, but waitlisted. This means that the college is interested in you but may or may not have room for you.


If you have your heart set on a certain college, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of being admitted off the waitlist. BUT, not all colleges want to hear from you at this juncture. Some simply want you to ‘accept’ a spot on the WL. You must follow each college’s instructions. If the school that WL you tracks interest, some of these tips may help:


  1. Send an email notifying the admissions office that you will accept a position on the waitlist and that you will attend if you are admitted (if this is true). Many students call colleges as soon as they are waitlisted. This is a very busy time in the admissions office. You must follow each school's directions. Some do not want to hear about your interest, they simply want you to accept a spot on the WL if you are still interested.

  2. If you have won any awards or anything substantial has happened to you since you first sent in your application (such as winning a science or music competition), this is a great time to inform the school, if that is permitted. If there is a particular class in which you excelled and that stands out from your typical academic performance, you could tell the schools about your grades. In the email, you should explain your rationale for applying to that particular school, why you are a good fit, and what makes the school a top choice for you. If possible and if permitted, inform the college of why attending that institution would help you meet your academic and educational goals, and mention specifically which programs you would participate in if admitted. Reminder, this is for the colleges that are open to additional information.

  3. If the institution tracks interest, you may want to visit the campus again and personally meet with someone in admissions. If you can arrange for an interview, even better. While it’s expensive to travel, if you are really committed to one college and want to spend the next four years there more than anything, showing up and telling the office is a good idea if you are hoping to get off the waitlist. Your visit signals to the college that you are serious about attending the institution. That said, if your personal circumstances preclude a campus visit, inform the admissions counselor of this while also trying the other tactics I suggest.

  4. Arranging for an additional letter of recommendation to be sent on your behalf could also help dramatically, in some cases. You never know if just one person’s powerful words can push your application over the edge. Or perhaps someone outside of school who knows you well (like a boss at a job) could be a great extra option for another letter. Again, IF the school will accept extra letters.


Make sure to put a deposit down to a school that you have been accepted to by May 1 (or the Decision Date, if the date has been extended due to FAFSA delays). While it’s disappointing to be waitlisted, there are still ways to improve your chances. Do your best to demonstrate to the college that you will enroll if accepted, as colleges are extremely interested in accepting students who are most likely to enroll. Even if you don’t get into your “dream” school, remember that there are a number of colleges -- not just one -- at which you will thrive. Sit tight. We've seen students get off the waitlist as late as the end of July!

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