What is waitlisting, and what to do if waitlisted?

Posted on 25th April 2022

What is waitlisting?

When you get an admissions decision from the US colleges to which you’ve applied, you will either be accepted, rejected, deferred, or waitlisted. We covered what deferral means and what to do about it in a previous blog.

Being waitlisted means that the admissions officers have reviewed your application, and placed you in a ‘waiting room’ of sorts. Once the college sees how many of its admitted applicants take up their offers, they may admit students from the waitlist, to make up their class.

Being placed on a college’s waitlist might not be the decision you were hoping for, but there are things you can do that could increase your chances of acceptance. What you want to do is convince the university that, if they accept you, you will then accept their offer of admission and remain enrolled until graduation. This percentage of students who take up offers of admission is referred to as ‘yield.’ If a college’s yield has not been what it anticipated from admitted students (ie, if enough admitted students do not accept their offers), they will admit waitlisted students to meet their target.

What can I do to help my chances if I’m waitlisted?

The main thing you can do to help your chances is to contact the university with a letter of continued interest, to convince them that you will accept if admitted. You don’t want to inundate them with communications, though, and you want to be concise and impactful in what you do send. Your letter of continued interest should tell the university that they are still your top choice, and that you’d love to attend! It should also update them about anything relevant about your application.

What makes a good letter of continued interest? See below:

  • Following universities’ guidance. Not all universities will want or accept more information from you—check this before sending! Also check whether they want this via email and to whom it should be emailed, or whether it should be submitted through the application portal.
  • Using a polite and polished style.
  • Stating specific reasons why a college is your top choice—the same types of things you might have mentioned in your supplemental essays, though avoid repeating those verbatim! (You may need to do a bit more research into the university to do this).
  • Providing relevant updates about things you’ve accomplished or achieved since applying. Any new awards or honours would be great here; if you’ve taken mock exams and done well, made progress on a research project, Extended Essay, or EPQ, or won a sporting event, that information would also work well. By connecting the specific programmes that you mention at your university to these accomplishments is a great way to demonstrate that you’re a great fit.

It can also be helpful to research the percentages of students that are historically admitted from your chosen colleges’ waitlists. This fluctuates year to year, but can give you a sense of what your chances may be. College Data’s college search tool allows you to access college waitlist data from the colleges it profiles.

Planning your future when waitlisted

Don’t let being waitlisted make you put your future planning in the waiting room as well! Taking control of your college trajectory can help you feel empowered in the process. Even if you write a great LOCI, there’s always a chance that you may not be accepted, as a range of factors goes into college acceptances. Keeping this in mind, it’s generally a good idea to accept an offer from another college in the meantime. It’s unlikely that you’d be able to get your deposit back if you are then admitted to your waitlist college, and you accept that offer, so consider that when weighing up your decision. Also, it can be good for your well-being not to pin all your hopes on the waitlist school! Allow yourself space to get excited about the college you’ve accepted, and start thinking about your future there and making fun plans.

If you need help with your LOCI or your strategy after decisions come in, our College Counselling services are here to support you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to consultancy@ueseducation.com about this, and we’ll be happy to help!

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