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Mar 20, 2017
High School Seniors

If you’re like many seniors, you may not be sure how to react to that letter from your dream college. You weren’t rejected. You weren’t accepted. You were waitlisted. Being waitlisted can bring up a ton of emotions, both good and bad, but you don’t have to “wait” around to take action. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do if you get waitlisted by a college.

Step 1: Understand What It Means

Depending on your college, the term “waitlisted” may seem really vague. But the basic breakdown is that the college may have filled its quota of students for the next term. Those waitlisted usually have the qualifications and background the admissions team are looking for, but for whatever reason, cannot be fit in if everyone says yes.

If a spot becomes available after college decisions are due (usually May 1st), you’ll receive an official admissions letter. If you’re too far down on the waitlist or if spots do not open, you will not be accepted or will have your admissions deferred to a later term or year.

Step 2: Think Through the Pros and Cons of Waitlisting

You’ll need to decide if it’s worth your time to be listed. It’s a tough choice. The pro to waitlisting is that a spot may open up, especially if you’ve got the grades and activities to back you up. However, if you have schools that have said ‘yes’ to you, you don’t want to risk turning them down and then not having a place at either school.

Step 3: Take Action

Now comes the tough part -- the actual wait. In the meantime, call the admissions team and ask details about the waitlist numbers or past year’s waitlists. While they most likely won’t tell you what “number” you are, you can get a sense of what your hopes should be.

Another way you can up your chances is to ramp up your school performance. Take over a leadership position, begin volunteering, sign up for a college summer courses. Then, let the admissions office know this by requesting a second interview or have someone with the connections to the college write you an additional recommendation letter on your behalf.

Step 4: Formulate a Backup Plan

While we don’t want to think of the negatives here, it’s best to be realistic. Come the fall, you’ll need to decide what will happen to you if you don’t receive that letter.Community colleges are a great option, and in many cases, they can help you transfer to that dream school in a year or two. Taking a gap year is also becoming more popular, and if you use it for an experience like an overseas volunteer trip, you can use it to build your resume and application for the next year. You can also work and save up money for tuition to take away that stress in future years.

Getting waitlisted doesn’t have to leave you feeling hopeless. Make the right decision for yourself by keeping your future in mind, and you can make the waiting as painless as possible.

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