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Your Waitlist To-Do List

After months of waiting—and waiting!—the day has finally come. Even if it’s not the news you’ve dreamed of, today is the day for news: your definitive “yes” or “no,” an end to months of uncertainty, is here via electronic envelope. Right?

Wrong. Enter: The Waitlist, stage left. The thing you never knew you dreaded. We know a “waitlist” email can feel heartbreakingly unresolved, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in indecision. There are things you can do to maximize your chances of acceptance, even if those chances are slim. Here’s our to-do list for waitlisted students.

To Do List:

  1. Don’t Panic! This isn’t a moment for Homeric lamentations (think Greek poet, not Simpsons character… but, really, either works!). Take a few deep breaths, blast your favorite song, have a snack.
  2. Check in with yourself: Do you want to stay on the waitlist? A moment of reflection is critical here. Is your “dream school” still your dream school? What have you learned throughout the last few months about yourself, college, what you’re looking to gain out of the next few years?
  3. Check in with your data: does the college need anything from you?
  4. Have they asked you specifically for new test scores or more recent grades?
  5. Are they offering you the opportunity to submit supplemental materials? (more recommendations, awards, published pieces, etc.)
  6. If they specifically tell you not to send them anything, * don’t send them anything*
  7. Show your interest!
  8. Write a letter to the admissions office (unless, again, they’ve explicitly told you not to!)
  9. At some point, you’ll need to tell them it’s still your first-choice school and you’ll enroll if admitted
  10. One paragraph should be dedicated to updating them on all you’ve achieved since you submitted your application
  11. One paragraph should be dedicated to showing them how you’d take advantage of the opportunity to attend. Why does that school fit your interests? How would you enhance the school community?
  12. Mention courses/professors
  13. Mention activities/interest areas
  14. Make sure your letter is positive, confident, and grateful. No begging! No devastation!
  15. Don’t repeat the same things you told them in your initial application essays.
  16. Have a Back Up Plan: Before the May 1st enrollment deadline, send in a deposit to secure your spot at your second-choice school. Admissions are increasingly competitive, and waitlists are no different! It’s important you have a go-to option if you don’t get off the waitlist, and many schools won’t even begin to take students off the waitlist until after May 1st, and the percentage of students on the waitlist who get offered a spot can vary widely. Last year, of the students who opted for a spot on the waitlist, UCSB admitted 24%, Michigan admitted 7%, and Penn admitted 0.3%
  17. Remain a competitive candidate! Don’t forget to keep doing you. Keep your grades up, explore interesting opportunities for growth in your extracurriculars, and work hard to continue being a creative global contributor. It’s important to remain committed to excellence throughout this process (and beyond!).

If you have any questions about how to handle your specific waitlist situation, or if you’d like to see some sample waitlist letters that our students have written in the past, just reach out to one of the team members here at ESM.