How to Get Off the Wait List for College

Nobody likes to wait, especially for admission to a college. Find out how to improve your chances of getting in.

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik | August 18, 2014

Photo: ThinkStock

You've done everything you were supposed to do: Took the SATs, scored a few recommendation letters, wrote the essay and applied to the school of your dreams. And now, you're, well ... waiting.

But what happens when you finally do hear from your choice college and you've been wait listed? Lean on these tips from educational experts for how to increase your chances of getting off the wait list and how to prepare for attending another school if you don't.

"Submitting additional letters of recommendation that simply repeat the content of previously submitted references is not beneficial."

1. Shout it From the Rooftops

Michael Marchetti, director of undergraduate admissions for Fairleigh Dickinson University, said students who have zoned in on a dream school, "should make their interest in that school evident."

"They should establish a rapport with their assigned admissions counselor early on and continue throughout the college search to demonstrate their interest in the school through visits to campus, communications with admissions staff and faculty, and interaction with the school’s social media outlets," Marchetti said. "They should also take every opportunity to distinguish themselves as a candidate. Schools are looking for students they believe will succeed in and beyond their years of education there."

Marchetti emphasized that while academics are often used as the primary indicator for college acceptance, "extracurricular activities, demonstrated leadership, service, and unique talents often help admissions officers get a perspective of the student 'beyond the numbers.'"

2. Send More Details

Mindy Popp, managing director and principal consultant at Popp & Associates in Wellesley, MA, said students should send additional materials to a school's admissions office only if the material provides new information regarding the student's applicant profile.

"Submitting additional letters of recommendation that simply repeat the content of previously submitted references is not beneficial," she said. "In addition, students should be selective about what they submit, and keep in mind that submitting a lot of extra materials at this point in the application process is not helpful. One of the best steps that a wait listed student can take if he or she wants to be offered admission is to write to the college admission office expressing a strong desire to attend the college with clear, concise explanations –– the letter does not have to be long –– regarding why the student feels he or she is a good fit for the school.

3. Devise a Backup Plan

Constructing a plan of action should a student not get accepted to school, doesn't have to mean "giving up on a dream school," Marchetti said. "Applicants should always select a range of schools that include schools they aspire to attend as well as schools they are highly confident in being admitted to," he said. " In some cases, applicants may want to consider open admission schools such as community colleges as part of a backup plan. If they are determined to eventually enroll at their dream school, they should explore transfer policies and requirements with that school early so that they can develop a clear path as they begin studies at their 'second choice”' school.

4. Stop Being so Hard on Yourself

Dr. Sarah McGinty, author of "The College Application Essay" and a former member of the writing faculty at Harvard University, said it's important to remember that there isn't a magic formula for earning a ticket off a college's wait list.

"This isn't the queue at the bakery –– you aren't number 168 on the wait list," she said. "The college doesn't assign numbers to its wait listed candidates and in fact they don't yet know if they will take from the wait list –– really. So don't nag or wonder about that. It's different every year and who they take isn't predictable."

"Remember that they have, for the moment, stopped thinking about you," McGinty added. "So you need to stop thinking about them. Of course, their 'maybe' is total catnip and has made you sure you can't be happy anywhere else. But cuddling up to your other schools –– which if you've done this right should share most of the characteristics of the school that just said 'maybe' –– is your secondary focus. Your primary focus is to complete your senior courses with distinction and enjoy 'ruling the school' as a senior."

Quick Tips

  • Provide a school with more details about your qualifications only if the information is different than what you gave already supplied.
  • Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Continue to seek admission at other schools and work hard at completing your senior year courses.
  • Make your wish to attend the school apparent by writing a short and well-thought letter of interest.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

What To Do When You Are Wait-Listed
Deferred College Admission? How to Get In to Your Top Schools
Maintain Momentum: Refocus Spring Study Habits
Spring Clean Your Study Habits

Quick Search: Find the College that's Right for You!

OR

Advertisement

Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.

Advertisement