They told you to wait

March 30, 2007 at 6:47 am 1 comment

Posted by Doreen 

I know how frustrating it is to be waitlisted. I applied to six private schools last year, five of which were Ivies, and when I got the responses from the Ivy schools, two of the five had waitlisted me, one of which was one of my top choice schools.

Naturally I was frustrated — yes I had other options — I had other great schools I could go to in the fall, but being waitlisted was almost as bad as being rejected since I had little idea about where I stood! Should I wait around for their response before submitting an affirmative answer and deposit for another school? When would they make a final decision on my admission? Would they ever make a final decision or would they just leave me hanging forever? Did being waitlisted and then getting accepted make me less than my peers who were accepted first? How many other people were waitlisted? Did they rank the waiting list? How can I find out how high up I am on the list? Or… how low I am on the list?! If there is a list that is… the unanswered questions go on and on. So, here are some thoughts in retrospect.

The decision letter:

The letter they send you saying that you’re waitlisted will tell you little beyond the fact that you were put on the waiting list; they’ll probably comment that you’re a great student and that there were so many qualified students that they couldn’t have space for all of the wonderful applicants and yadda yadda. Some schools may include percentages of applicants that were waitlisted with you, but this is rare — usually they leave you in the dark on those things.

The postcard:

Usually, the school will give you the option though of staying on the waitlist or not. The guideline here is if you would definitely not attend the school even if you got in, don’t keep yourself on the waitlist. Otherwise, if you still would like to be considered for the school, or if you would definitely attend the school if you got in, or if you’re unsure still about if you’d attend or not, do keep yourself on the waitlist. The postcard will ask you whether or not you’d like to stay on the waitlist, so check the appropriate box and send it in the mail ASAP. Do not wait! Mailing in a postcard takes so little time so regardless of your response, do send it in. (By the way, I use postcard here because both the schools I was waitlisted for used postcards, but there may be some other form of correspondence schools are using; whatever the means, be prompt with your response.)

The wait:

Now, the only thing you have to do is wait. Since May 1 is the national reply date, the college will know at this point how many spots they need to fill and how many students they should reconsider from the waitlist. So, at some point after May 1st, they may offer some students admission from the waitlist. Also, at this point they may definitely take some people off the waitlist as well. However, if they still have spots to fill after the people they accept from the waitlist respond, they may go back to the waitlist once again and send out more notifications.

Well, actually, it’s not quite true that the only thing you have to do is wait — you also should definitely reply to one school you’re planning to attend if the waitlist doesn’t work out. So, DO reply to a school you were accepted to by the appropriate date even if you’re waiting for the results of the waitlist. Also, do go ahead with paying deposits and filling out appropriate forms for registration or intent to register. If you end up getting off the waitlist, well, keep reading below for that.

The more-info letter:

During the wait time, the school may send you a solicitation for more information. In fact, over the summer, I received from my top school that I got waitlisted at a letter from an admissions officer asking about a B- I had received in AP English during the second semester of my senior year. Do take my advice and respond very quickly to any queries they may have. In all likelihood, they will not be asking you to elaborate on positive aspects of your app, but to explain any negatives that may have come up, like my lower grade for example. Take this opportunity to indeed explain why that negative may have occurred, and also use this as an opportunity to tell them about new positive information. Between January when I had turned in my regular decision application and June when they had asked me about my bad grade I had so many new things going on in my life that I could tell them about.

The too-bad letter:

As Matt McGann, on of the bloggers from MIT admissions said in his post titled “Waitlist” in May of 2006, “it just isn’t ethical to keep that many people on the waitlist at this point, so… many students will receive a letter informing them that they will not get off the waitlist, and wishing them the best of luck at the college they’ve chosen.”

The you’re-off-the-wait-list letter:

Congrats! If you do get off the waitlist, you have a decision to make — either decline the school’s offer of acceptance in favor of the school you already replied to, or accept the school’s acceptance offer and immediately let the school you already replied to know that you will actually not be attending anymore. You may not be able to get a refund if you’ve already paid deposits on the previous school, but still, let them know that you’re not attending after all.


Entry filed under: Accepted, Answer, College trends, Deadline, Ivy league, Mail, MIT, Myth, Private school, Question, Ranking, Registration, Regular decision, Rejected, Statement of intent to register, Statistics, Timing, Tips/Tricks, Waitlist.

Decisions are out: season 2007 How “x” does academics: x = UCLA

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dave Van de Walle  |  April 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Hi. Great stuff on your blog…

    Curious to see the traffic (elsewhere, not on this post) about Zinch…they’ve certainly done a few things right over the last couple weeks…

    We’re similar to them, a little more akin to those common-style applications than a social networking thing, and happy to chat with you about what we’re up to, too…

    Take care,



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