College Advice Blog

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Jul 7, 2012

The Truth Behind the College Waitlist...

The process of painstakingly filling out your first choice, dream university’s college application seemed endless. On paper, and according to your parents and guidance counselor, the chances of you gaining admittance are beyond favorable. The day you’ve waited for has finally arrived, but you notice the acceptance letter isn’t as bulky as you had imagined. You rip open the envelope only to see the words you dreaded even more than a rejection: waitlisted. Colleges basically have three options when it comes to potential students: acceptance, rejection or place them on the wait and see list. If you’re on the waitlist, or worried that your college future will soon be placed in limbo, here’s a little insight into why colleges place so many students on the waitlist, and how to get your status changed to “accepted.”


A Few Reasons Why You Were Waitlisted
Unfortunately, you may never know the exact reason why you were placed on a university’s waitlist, but here are a few of the most common causes for this decision:
  • Grades or SAT scores – No matter if you’ve been told differently by countless academic advisors and newspaper articles, colleges still rely heavily on a student’s grades and entrance exam scores when it comes times to make any final decisions. Put more simply, if your grades and SAT scores aren’t competitive, expect to see your name on the waitlist.
  • You skipped the interview, or it didn’t go so well – A sparkling interview can go a long way toward getting that coveted acceptance letter. Many advisors see a lackluster interview, or the student’s inability to go the extra mile by even arranging a face-to-face, as a crystal clear reason for placing him or her on the waitlist.
  • Competition for limited spots—It’s a sad truth, but the steady increase in qualified applicants is the main reason why universities place a great number of prospective students on the waitlist. On paper, you may seem like the ideal candidate, but there are a limited number of spots, and many students just as exemplary as you clamoring to fill them. Universities also realize that many prospective students apply to, and are accepted into, a number of institutions. You’re often placed on the waitlist and given an acceptance letter later if the above mentioned students choose an alternate university.
I’m on the Waitlist...Now What?
The true tragedy of being waitlisted instead of receiving a rejection is the glimmer of hope that still remains for your future acceptance into the university. There is no surefire way to get off the waitlist, but there are a few tips that could help shift your future with the university from “maybe” to “absolutely”:
  • Follow the university’s policies to the letter. Many colleges are upfront with students concerning their “don’t call us, because we’ll call you” policy. It’s intended to keep phone calls from screaming parents and pleading students to a minimum. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and adhere to this practice.
  • Send a letter to the admissions advisor stating your continued interest in furthering your academic career with the university. Keep the letter specific, and give reasons why you’d be a great addition to the university’s student body.
  • Mail a few more stellar references. Ask your teachers, college professors or other noteworthy professionals to send a letter of recommendation on your behalf to the university.
  • Amend your original application. Include any participation in extra-curricular activities, awards, internships, scholarships or honors that you’ve recently acquired or achieved.
Consider Online Universities
Many are finding their future academic success lies within the world of online education. Case in point are the several candidates seeking an MBA, or Master of Business Administration. This world is becoming increasingly competitive, leaving some to find themselves without any scholastic prospects for the upcoming fall semester. If this is your current situation, consider enrolling in accredited online MBA degrees programs. Because they aren’t limited, traditional campus-based classrooms, the majority of online universities are able to accept candidates that would have otherwise been placed on the waitlist.

In the end, the majority of students placed on a traditional university’s waitlist don’t make the cut, and are forced to rely on Plan B, C, D or even S. If you’re suspended in the academic limbo otherwise known as the waitlist, it’s a good idea to know to when to throw in the proverbial towel and enroll in your second choice, or you might be left without a university to attend next fall.

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About the Author
This article was written by Justin Jensen who is currently pursuing his Masters degree in organizational leadership degree and expects to have his degree by next year.
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