Wednesday, March 7, 2012

College Admissions: What To Do If You're Wait Listed

You carefully crafted your application, followed the instructions exactly to the letter and when that response comes from the college it doesn't say "Yes", but it doesn't say "No" either.
You're on the "Wait List". Now what?
Each year, my office is flooded with emails and calls from stressed-out students (often their parents) who have been wait-listed and want to know what it really means and what, if anything can be done about it.
There's a lot of anxiety and confusion surrounding the idea of waitlists, mostly for two reasons: 1. there's no clear, foreseeable outcome; and, 2. the odds are somewhat grip as reported by major media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
While there are no guarantees, let's look get a clear look at reality- for many colleges, the waitlist has become the "polite no".
This year, Princeton put over 1,400 students on their waitlist.Maybe they'll take 164 students from the list (past years) or maybe they'll take 0. There's no way to predict. But it's not just "Ivy League" schools.
In previous years...
  • American University offered 2,025 spots on their wait-list, accepted 40 from the wait-list.
  • University of Virginia placed 4,326 students on the waitlist, only 191 were accepted
  • Boston University placed 2,307 on their waitlist and accepted 8 students from the list.
  • Vanderbilt placed 5,515 applicants on the waitlist and only 212 were offered a spot in the freshman class.
  • UC Berkeley waitlisted 201 students and accepted none.
  • University of Maryland, College Park wait-listed 1,023, accepted none from the wait-list.
So, what can you do if it's your top-choice school and you find yourself waitlisted? Take Action.
Your Smart Plan For College Assignment:
  1. Follow the school's directions for making sure you actually get placed on the wait-list (send back the postcard or respond to the email, or indicate on your online account - follow exactly whatever procedure THEY TELL YOU)
  2. Call (after May 1) the admissions rep with whom you have been talking with AND write a follow-up letter to ask more information about the waitlist and to make your case. Mention your acceptance at a comparable school (telling Princeton you were accepted at State U, won't really cut it) and why you prefer the college that waitlisted you.
  3. Update them on any additional, recent awards, accomplishments, etc that may not have been in your original application. This is where your "elevator pitch" is a must - clearly communicate the value you bring to campus.
  4. Send an updated letter of recommendation from a teacher to support your case. Ask them to speak about the impact you're making in his or her classroom.
Bottom line, you'll have to do a lot of work and there may not be any payoff; but, at least you can have the confidence that you did everything possible to make this college dream a reality.
Final Word of Advice: Get back in the game. Just because one college "benched" you, doesn't mean a thing. You have several other colleges that absolutely LOVED you enough to accept you outright. You loved THEM enough to go to the trouble of applying for admission. Remember that.
Focus your attention on making the best choice from the colleges before you. IF you should get a call over the summer letting you know there's a spot for you at the school that waitlisted you, then you'll need to make a decision.
There's always hope, but don't keep from making a decision now because you're waiting for a call that may never come.

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