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  • Bentham Team

What to do if you’re waitlisted

When you apply to a college, you may not be accepted or rejected. Instead, you might get waitlisted. This probably means that you met the admissions criteria (those who did not were rejected), but there were not enough slots to go around. Because a college can’t know for sure how many of their pool of accepted students will accept them back, there’s a waiting list. You will be asked if you want a spot on the waitlist, and you should accept the offer if you still want to attend that school.

Be resilient - you still have a chance! You can do more than simply mope and wait. There are steps you should take to improve your chances of being accepted and to adapt to the reality of being waitlisted.


1. Contact the admissions office.

Call the admissions office to find out about your chances of admission, and to see if there’s anything additional you can give them. Many schools will give you a rough idea of your chances of getting in, or your position on the list. Find out if the admissions office would be interested in further recommendations, updates on your activities, or a letter from a friend who is an alumnus of the school. If they want you to leave them alone after this discussion, leave them alone.


2. Put down a deposit at another school.

You may not hear until late May if the waitlisting school will accept you or not, so cover your bets by putting down a deposit at one of the schools that has accepted you (unless you get specific assurances that you are certain to be admitted off the waiting list). This way you will be guaranteed admission somewhere, and it wouldn’t hurt to revisit that school and start to imagine your life there. Get excited about that school, and you should cease to care much about the school you’re waiting on. Expressing an intention to go to a school and putting down a deposit does not obligate you to go there. However, that deposit in most cases is non-refundable.


3. Accept a position on the waiting list.

If this school is still your first choice, write a brief letter accepting a position on the waiting list. This letter should be personal - speak in your own voice and assume the officer wants what’s best for you. State again specific reasons why you and this school are a good fit for each other. Come up with some new distinct aspects of the school that are exciting to you - programs, organizations, classes, etc. If you come up with new reasons why this school is for you, it will demonstrate the intensity of your commitment. Make the letter short and sweet - thank them for continuing to consider you (be positive and upbeat), express your continued intention to commit to that school, specify the reasons why you want to attend and what you would offer the school, and update your admissions officer about any additional accomplishments since you first applied - semester grades, new positions or activities, achievements, etc.


4. Keep Studying! Keep Contributing to your activities!

It is absolutely essential that you do not let your grades slip. The college that waitlisted you, and the others to which you applied, will be checking in with your high school counselor, who will be checking in with your teachers. These grade reports can be pivotal. Admissions officers also look down on lessening your commitment to the clubs, community service, and other activities after you’ve sent in your applications.


If you'd like some professional assistance, please don't hesitate to contact Bentham. We'd be more than happy to help!


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