Reasons Why You Might Have Been Waitlisted

on March 24, 2017

What exactly does it mean to be waitlisted? Most of the time, it means you have the academic credentials to be admitted, but for one reason or another, the college admissions office wasn’t ready to accept you.


Maybe too many similar candidates applied. Maybe the admissions folks couldn’t tell if you were truly committed to enrolling at their school or were just window-shopping.


Colleges use the waiting list to deal with the uncertainty of the college admissions process. Just as students do not know whether they will be admitted, college 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 college admissions office the flexibility to err on the side of too few admitted students. There is no similar mechanism for dealing with too many students accepting the offer of admission.


If too few students enroll, the college admissions office will admit students off of the waitlist until they have filled the incoming freshman class. The college also might use the waitlist to fill specific gaps in the student body, such as too few students interested in particular academic majors.


Here are the most common reasons why applicants are placed on the waitlist.

  • If your parents are alumni, work for the college or are well connected, you might have been waitlisted as a courtesy, to avoid offending your parents. Waitlisting softens 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.
  • There may have been flaws in your application that made you a borderline candidate. Maybe your grades weren’t strong enough. Maybe your participation in extracurricular and volunteer activities lacked depth. Maybe you had a bad interview or an unflattering letter of recommendation. Maybe your essay was weak.
  • You didn’t stand out as special. You might have been a solid candidate, but there was nothing unique about you that presented a compelling reason to admit you.
  • Perhaps there were questions about how well you would fit into the campus culture.
  • You might have been the right caliber of candidate the college was seeking but 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.

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