Ask if there are conditions attached to students who are admitted off the wait-list; in some cases, you may not have the same opportunities for housing or financial aid as other students.
For high school seniors and adults planning to go back to college, the spring can be a tense time, as they wait for word on whether they’ve been accepted or rejected by the schools they've applied for, however, there’s also a third option: getting wait-listed.
Being wait-listed at your top school can be almost as hard as being rejected, because you don’t know if you’ll eventually be accepted, and you have the added burden of having to wait longer, usually until after May 1, to know where you’ll go to college.
Why are students wait-listed?
Colleges and universities put students on wait lists if they’re not sure if the student is the right fit for the school. A wait list also helps them ensure their freshman class is the size they want it to be: When accepted applicants choose another school, they can offer acceptance letters to students on the wait list to add to the freshman class.
What can you do if you’re wait-listed?
If you decide you don’t want to attend that school, either because you’ve been accepted at a college or university you’d rather attend or because you’ve decided this isn’t the school for you, contact the school to request they remove your name from their wait list. Why? This lets other students on the wait list move up to a higher spot.
If you do want to attend, contact the school to find out if they’ve ranked wait-list applicants and where you fall on that list, as well as the average number of applicants they usually accept off their wait-list. Also, ask if there are conditions attached to students who are admitted off the wait-list; in some cases, you may not have the same opportunities for housing or financial aid as other students. If these factors will weigh in to your decision to attend that school, it’s important to be aware of them as soon as possible in the process.
If you feel very strongly about attending, you may want to submit letters or additional material to supplement your application. Some schools may explicitly request that you do not do this. If they don’t make this request, contact the admissions department to reiterate your interest in attending and ask what reasons led them to wait-list you. If they provide the reasons why they’re not sure you’re the right candidate, you can send in materials to prove why you think you’d be a good fit.
Because you’re not likely to find out if you’re accepted off the wait-list until after the deadline has passed for letting other schools know if you’ll attend their schools, you should put down a deposit at your top choice of the schools where you were accepted. If you then get in to your top college or university, you must inform the other college that you will not be attending and will forfeit your deposit.
What if you don’t get in off the wait-list?
If you’ve put down your deposit at another college or university, you can attend that school and try to transfer to your top school if you decide you’re unhappy there. Or, if you’re not happy about any of the colleges or universities you’ve been accepted to, consider reapplying the following year.
If you choose to reapply, there are a number of ways to improve your chances of getting admitted the following year. For adults going back to college, you can take courses at a community college or online school to improve your grades or expand your skills. Seniors graduating high school may choose to spend their gap year working on an internship or a job that is tied in to their college interests.
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