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How to Deal With College Admissions Wait Lists

by Story2 Guest Author, on May 2, 2016 1:22:46 PM


For high school seniors who have worked hard on their applications, there are few things more agonizing than being waitlisted at a top choice college or university. It is a situation that creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty and stress: while some schools will ultimately go to their waiting list to admit students, others will not.  

Here is a tip for motivated students hoping to turn their wait list status into an acceptance:

Contact the college by phone and by email to express deep interest.

If a college goes to its wait list at all it is often more likely to call just those students who indicated that they are likely to attend if invited after May 1. When making that call, it is important to ask whether additional documentation might help. For example, some schools will suggest sending third-quarter grades or an additional recommendation from a teacher or other mentor such as an employer, coach or music teacher.

That said, no matter how encouraging the school is about the likelihood that they will offer admission to waitlisted students, it is critical that a student never rely on this! An enrollment deposit should be sent to a college to which the student has actually been accepted by the May 1 deadline. Acceptance to a college from a waiting list is, after all, an iffy thing.

As a college admissions consultant who is also a licensed psychologist, I recommend that students and families be aware of their emotional tolerance levels when it comes to waiting list situations. For example, some students feel that if they've not heard from the wait list school by June 1, they are committing heart and soul to the school to which they've already sent their enrollment deposit. On the other hand, there are students willing to switch course if an admissions offer comes in as late as August!

From a financial standpoint: be aware that by the time an admissions offer comes after being waitlisted, merit monies and some need-based aid may no longer be available from the college.  

A final word of advice? Prevention! If you are a student in the 9th, 10th or 11th grade, consider hiring a qualified college admissions consultant to avoid application pitfalls, making it more likely to be accepted at top choice schools to begin with, thereby avoiding the wait list situation in the first place!

Dr. Sandra J. Eller is an experienced College Admissions Consultant with an engaging style. She works individually with students of all ability levels to maximize admissions prospects at colleges that are a “best fit” for students academically, socially, emotionally and financially. Dr. Eller can be reached at For more information, check out her website at

Topics:college admission