Waitlisted For College: Your Guide on What to Do Next

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso

Content Writer At Gradehacker

If you’ve been waitlisted for college, it can be an incredibly frustrating and demotivating experience. You may feel like all your hard work has gone to waste and that you won’t get into your dream school.

After many years of assisting students with their degrees and college experience at Gradehacker, the non-traditional adult student #1 resource, we got to learn all ways you can make this experience better for yourself

While being waitlisted is a difficult position to find yourself in, there are still a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting accepted. 

Today, we’ll show you what to do if you are waitlisted for college and how to improve this situation.

waitlisted for college- first picture- two girls reacting with computer

What Being Waitlisted For College Means

Being waitlisted for college can be a confusing and frustrating experience, but understanding what it is and how it works can help you make a better admission decision about your college options.

Universities use wait lists because admissions decisions are complicated. 

They want to ensure they fill each incoming class with a wide range of talented students who will contribute to their community.

Another reason is that colleges want to have a qualified pool of applicants in case their admitted students choose to attend other schools.

When you are put as a waitlisted student, the institution has decided that you may be a good fit for the school, but there is simply not enough space to admit all qualified college applicants.

So, instead of offering you a definitive acceptance or rejection, the admissions officers have placed you on the waitlist, allowing you to be admitted if spots open up.

What Are Your Chances as a Waitlisted Applicant?

In the recent report by Ivywise, which reviewed 45 elite colleges going from Harvard University to Wesleyan University, they found that, on average, there are between 1,500 and 1,800 waitlisted colleges per year in these institutions, with 48 being the lowest and 6,056 being the highest examples.

If we check the percentage of students on the waitlist acceptance rates, we can see that, on average, the chances of getting moved from one list to the other is about 3,09%.

But based on a report by College Kickstart, the waitlist admission rates were 11% in 2023.

It all can vary, and possibilities change depending on the institution and your chosen career.

How is The College Admissions Process When Waitlisted for College?

Once you have been waitlisted for college, the admissions department will review your application again to determine if you have any space at their school.

At this point, some selective schools may ask for additional materials, such as an essay or letters of recommendation. Others may simply choose to waitlist you without any further action.

In both cases, there will be a review of the college application of all waitlisted students and decide who they want to admit. They may also provide feedback on why they chose not to admit a student, which can be helpful in understanding what you can do.

Selective colleges take factors like:

Being Deferred Instead of Waitlisted

This is a common mistake many people have, so if you are confused and think it is the same, you need to know that there is a difference between a deferral letter and a college waitlist letter.

If you receive a deferral letter, it means the school hasn’t made a final decision on your application but will evaluate it again later. This often happens when you apply early or off the application deadline.

A waitlist letter means you might be offered a spot if one becomes available.

Waitlisted For College- second photo- boy student thinking with hands under chin

What Being Waitlisted For College Means

As some might be awaiting their college admissions decision, others may find themselves waitlisted by their dream choice college. Unlike any other regular decision you might make in your journey, deciding what to do next isn’t as easy.

So if you are overwhelmed, we have a guide that can help you get back on track and explore your possibilities:

1. Evaluate Your Options

While being waitlisted does mean there is still a chance of being admitted, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of remaining on the waitlist.

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to remain on the waitlist is the likelihood of being accepted. Unfortunately, this information is often difficult to obtain.

Sometimes by doing a simple school search, you can easily find the number of students admitted from the waitlist in previous years, but this is not always the case.

In general, the larger the waitlist and the earlier in the admissions cycle a student is waitlisted, the more likely they are to be admitted.

Another factor to consider is the student’s level of interest in college. If the college is a student’s top choice and they are committed to attending, it may be worth staying on the waitlist, even if the chances of being admitted are low.

On the other hand, if the student has other backup colleges that they are excited about, it may be best to withdraw from the waitlist and focus on those backup schools.

The waitlist decision should be made after considering all the pros and cons. 

You need to remember that being waitlisted does not mean a student is not a strong candidate for admission, but it does mean that there is no guarantee of acceptance.

By considering it and evaluating all offers of admission, students can make the best choice for their individual needs and goals. 

And if you want to explore your chances of acceptance, you can check our list of the universities with the highest acceptance rate!

You can also check our blog about  institutions that will accept you with a low GPA.

2. Getting Out Of The Waitlist: Is It Possible?

In this situation, taking action is important to increase your chances of being admitted.

After you receive the news, the first step you want to take is to contact the admissions office and let them know whether you’re interested in the college if a spot opens up or decided to attend another school.

If you are still interested, you should consider updating your application. Retaking the SAT or ACT, achieving more in extracurricular activities, or improving your GPA can enhance your chances 

Keep the school informed of any updates to your application. This includes sending in:

And If possible, request an interview with the admission office to showcase your strengths and commitment.

Another option is to write a letter of continued interest to the admissions office. 

This is a chance to remind them you are there waiting and still very interested in attending their school. The letter should be concise and emphasize why you are a good fit for the school.

Once you have made a decision, it’s important to reach out to the admissions office to let them know what steps you have taken. Be courteous, professional, and respectful in your communication, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have about the waitlist process.

And if you are considering improving your GPA by earning credits with simple and cheap general-education classes, here you’ll learn how to earn college credits with YouTube.

3. The Importance of Meeting Deposit Deadlines

A non-refundable deposit is a payment required by a college or university to secure a spot for an incoming student. It is typically made after the student is accepted and has decided to attend the institution. The amount of the deposit varies depending on the institution.

Based on The College Raptor, the enrollment deposit can vary anywhere from $100 to $1,000. Some schools require a larger deposit, while others waive the requirement altogether.

Deposit deadlines vary among different institutions, but they are usually around May 1st. Students need to check with the institution to find out their specific deadlines.

Deposits are important as they guarantee a student’s place in the institution and signal to the institution that the student is committed to attending. Also, deposits help institutions to accurately predict their enrollment numbers to make budgeting and planning decisions.

When making a deposit, students should also review their financial aid package to see if they can use the aid towards deposit payments or other education-related costs. 

It’s important to note that making a deposit does not guarantee full enrollment in the institution.

Students still need to complete other enrollment-related tasks, such as registering for classes and completing housing forms. Therefore, students should check with the institution to ensure they have completed all necessary steps to secure enrollment.

Waitlisted For College- last photo- girl excited

Waitlisted For College: Doing What Feels Best For You

Accepting an admissions offer from another school can be a tough decision, but ultimately, you need to choose the institution that is the best fit for you. 

While you might be eager for confirmation, it’s important to stay grounded and consider all of your options.

After carefully weighing your options, whether you accept or decline an offer from another choice school,  it’s important to do so graciously. 

You may not want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, continue exploring other options while preparing for the potential acceptance.

While being on the waitlist may seem discouraging, keep in mind that there are still opportunities for acceptance. Stay patient and persistent while also being proactive!

And if you need help and don’t know how to proceed or are still looking for the right college, you can book a call with us to help you throughout the process!

If you are looking for more information that will be helpful for your college experience, check our articles:

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso is a content creator passioned for writing, music, films, and the arts. At Gradehacker, she helps to improve non-traditional students life’s by finding and providing the most useful information, so they can always progress. You can find her on LinkedIn.