college waitlistAll is not lost if your teen gets waitlisted. Colleges offer applicants spots on their wait list during the regular admission periods, but those applicants typically won’t hear about being admitted until after May 1 (the deadline for accepted seniors to secure their spot with their deposit.)

Admissions officers make their final decision on whether there are any openings left in the next freshman class among those who are admitted but choose not to attend.

If your teen is wait-listed, that means that your student is competitive among that school’s pool of applicants. After the May 1 deadline, the admissions officers will go back and reexamine your teen’s application and other students on the wait list.

Read on to find out the five recommended steps to make wait-listed acceptance a potential reality:

  1. Accept or reject a place on the wait list. This is done online or by sending in a postcard. If your teen accepts, be certain that the school is definitely a top choice. In other words, only say ‘yes’ if your teen truly means it! To further confirm your teen’s interest, your might also want to send in a deposit.


  1. Restate your strong interest in the school. Email the admissions office to show a strong interest in attending. Sometimes having a phone interview with an admissions officer is possible. No need to restate what’s contained in the college essay – express strong enthusiasm about attending and certainly mention that the school is the number one choice – but only if that’s the case. You can also inform the admissions officer about any potential updates – recent awards, accolades, or an increase in GPA.


  1. Send in a deposit to another school on your teen’s list. If your teen is wait-listed with a school that is the top choice, it is advisable to send in a deposit to another preferred school before the May 1 deadline. Your teen needs to have a reserved freshman spot at a university the following fall. Being committed to attending that school is important, so it should be a school that your teen would feel good about attending.


  1. Do some research about the school’s wait list. Contact the college admissions office or ask your teen’s high school counselor to contact the office if the counselor has a relationship with the admissions office. Ask the admissions officer about your chances of being admitted as some schools even rank students on their wait list. Those who don’t rank look for a student to replace one they had counted on coming such as a student to fill a spot on the baseball team or band. (This makes it a little difficult to predict being admitted.)

More directly, you could ask about the criteria for getting on and off their list. Emory has stated that some students on their wait list are typically those with academic profiles who match those that have been admitted, but who ultimately expressed no special inclination to attend – i.e., didn’t visit or attend a local recruiting meeting.


  1. Be eager and creative but not pushy or desperate. Most admissions officers have said that students best help their cause by honoring the school’s policies and instructions. Creative stunts can sometimes give a student the edge – Emory once admitted a student who rewrote the words of the school song to promote herself!

These steps can provide your teen with a road map to navigate being on a college wait list and turning it into an acceptance. Good luck!



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