This article appears in College Prep 2018.
Getting wait-listed at the college of your choice is a disappointment, but it doesn’t mean you have to take the news as final.
Be cautiously optimistic
“A wait-list placement is not a rejection, so know that there are still steps you can take for a second chance at admission,” said Tommy Perkins, vice president of marketing for Colleges of Distinction, a resource for guidance counselors, parents and students, and Abound, its college guidance system. “That said, you shouldn’t rely on hope and forget about your other options. Just as you continue to work yourself off of the wait list, you should also continue to work on your other college applications.”
“The more personal and the more formal, the better,” Perkins said. “Sending a letter to the admissions office is a great way to emphasize your commitment to attending the school. It gives you the chance to make a stronger, more intentional claim that you wish for your application to be reconsidered.”
It’s also an opportunity to add extra credentials and factors for the admissions board to keep in mind, such as any non-academic accomplishments that you may not have included in your application.
Request an interview
“By speaking firsthand to a representative from the school, you will be able to show off your personality and verbalize your desire to attend in a way that you may not have communicated in your written application,” Perkins said.
“Rather than express disappointment in the decision to put you on the wait list, make a point to express excitement in what that school has to offer and why you want you want to attend,” Perkins said.
Keep up the good work
“Maintaining a good GPA — and improving it — shows the school that you are committed to your academic performance. Update the school with your progress to show that you are driven to meet them at a higher level,” Perkins said.
Things that can help change their mind include taking on leadership roles in extracurricular activities, getting more involved with your community, and showing the school that you have the passion and talent to make meaningful contributions outside of the classroom as well as inside, Perkins said.
Ask for additional recommendations
“See who else in your network can highlight your skills and abilities as a student. Teachers, counselors or leaders in other activities outside of school are all great resources,” Perkins said.
Have a Plan B
Getting off a wait list is increasingly difficult at top-tier schools. For example, last year Harvard accepted no students from the wait list for the class of 2021. Normally, the school will accept 30 or 40 to as many as 100, said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, Harvard College.
“Rejection can hurt and, in the moment, it can be hard to believe that a ‘Plan B’ will stack up to your first choice,” Perkins said. “In reality, however, every college has its own qualities that make it special, and there is bound to be a whole bunch of schools that offer experiences just as great as the one you had in mind … Don’t let the disappointment of a wait-list or rejection letter tarnish the awesome potential of another school’s acceptance letter.”