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Reasons Why You Might Have Been Waitlisted

Student standing with his back against the wall

If you've been waitlisted, don't panic. It's not what you'd hoped would happen, but you still have a good chance of being admitted to the school. Or you can back out and move on to other schools. 

But before you do anything about being waitlisted, it's essential to understand what it means so you can make the right decisions. We'll cover what being waitlisted means and how to handle it now.

 

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What Does it Mean to be Waitlisted?

Schools use the waiting list to deal with the uncertainty of the admissions process. Just as students do not know whether they will be admitted, admissions offices do not know how many of the admitted students will accept offers of admission.

Too many students enrolling can be just as bad as too few. The waitlist gives the admissions office flexibility to maintain a good class size of incoming students. 

Once a school has instituted a waitlist, the admissions office will admit students off the waitlist as needed until they have filled the incoming class. The school also might use the waitlist to fill specific gaps in the student body, such as too few students interested in particular academic majors.

Why Did I Get Waitlisted?

Here are the most common reasons why applicants are placed on a waitlist:

  • There simply were too few spaces available. There might have been too many students with your particular set of credentials or academic interests. The applicants who were admitted were just slightly better than you in some arbitrary way or applied earlier.
  • If your parents are alumni, work for the college, or are well-connected, you might have been waitlisted as a courtesy. Waitlisting can soften the blow of rejection.
  • You might have been too strong a candidate. The college admissions office might have been certain that you would be admitted by a much more prestigious college. The admissions office might have been concerned about your commitment to enrolling at their college and placed you on a waiting list to determine how keen you are to be accepted.
  • Your application may have flaws that make you a borderline candidate. Maybe your grades weren’t strong enough. Maybe your participation in extracurricular and volunteer activities lacked depth.
  • Your declared major might be the issue. Many schools look for a balanced makeup of their freshman class in terms of area of study. If there are too many students with your intended major, you might be placed on a waitlist while the school attempts to accept more candidates from other majors. 

Is Being Waitlisted Bad?

Being waitlisted isn't terrible if you're able to be patient and have a backup plan. Alternatively, you can choose to back out and move on. If you were waitlisted by one of your reach schools, you might have already been planning for the alternatives. So usually, being waitlisted isn't bad. 

Sure, being waitlisted can be anxiety-inducing. But it's better than getting an all-out no, right? 

What Should You Do if You've Been Waitlisted?

If you've been waitlisted, you have the choice to stay on the waitlist or back out and move on with your applications. If you're torn and don't know how to proceed, consider where that school is on your list of schools. 

If you were waitlisted by your dream school, then it might be worth waiting for a while to see what happens. You could review your list of safety schools and be ready to apply to them, just in case. Or, if you were waitlisted by a reach school and you still have some other great options to explore, maybe backing out will free up the space to put all your effort into the other schools on your list. 

 

How likely are you to get into other colleges?

It's always a good idea to be prepared to apply to other schools. See your chances of getting admitted to any college so that you can apply with confidence.

 

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