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Don’t Wait to Get Off of a College Waitlist: 10 Proactive Tips

It’s that time of year: millions of high school seniors all over the globe have had their fates decided by the all-powerful college admissions committees. If fate has assigned you to a waitlist at your dream school, don’t sink to the ground in dramatic despair! Instead, read this list of 10 actions you can take to change your fate for the better, from our friends at TeenLife!  


Congratulations for making it this far in the college admissions process.

You will most likely have many good college options already, but if you really want to go to a college that waitlisted you, follow as many of these 10 tips as possible. Do not do this for a school you will not attend. Colleges often take kids off waitlists who can afford to pay outright, have special connections, fulfill regional needs, or make a spectacular case. Remember, spots only open if the college has available spaces.

10 Proactive Tips to Get Off a Waitlist

1. Be happy about another college to which you got accepted.

Because if these tips don’t work, you can and will find happiness at another school. Many, many students do and never look back.

2. Make sure you accept the waitlist invitation.

It is no longer assumed you will accept so send in the waitlist acceptance form ASAP.

3. Follow the psychology of the admissions timeline.

Admissions officers are now actively courting the students they accepted. They are not thinking about anything else. So do not bother the admissions office of the waitlisted school in early to mid-April, but get materials ready and make sure you meet all deadlines. Even if they don’t want to accept any additional info, try to get them new information when the time is right towards the middle to end of the month of April. Once kids accept or don’t accept, they will go into waitlist consideration mode to fill outstanding spaces — late April to late summer. That will happen this year for sure at many colleges, as more kids than ever applied to multiple colleges.

4. Write a letter or email to the Admissions Committee.

Find the right admissions officer to communicate with. Stress your interest in your waitlisted institution and why you feel you are still an appropriate candidate for admissions. Consider this a cover letter to your overall waitlist application. Do not restate all that you said earlier in your application. But really express passionately your commitment to the campus. Talk about what is new since you applied — your senior year grades for example, and major academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Commit to go there if you get off the waitlist. You can even mention where else you got in if these schools are peers or close matches to the waitlisted school.

5. Ask for a recommendation

Ask a senior year teacher, who has not already written you a letter to this school to write you a letter of recommendation. This letter should really emphasize your academic talents this year in that class and why you will thrive at that college.


6. Get an updated letter of recommendation from your guidance counselor.

You can even have your counselor contact the college personally.

7. Contact your alumni interviewer.

If you had a great interview, thank the interviewer again and then ask for any advice about moving from waitlist to admissions.

8. If you can, visit the institution one more time and revisit the admissions office to remind them of your interest.

Contact anyone in the admissions office whom you met in person or via email.

9. Do not ask people who do not have major contacts with the college to contact the school.

Do not have anyone other than school teachers and officials write letters. The only other exception would be from someone for whom you did a major project this year — volunteer leader, youth group — only someone who can attest to new work this year and who knows you really, really well.

10. Please find happiness in your choices. There are so many great colleges that want you now. Discover what makes them great colleges for you.


Thanks to JHU for many of the ideas included in this note.


This post was originally shared on the TeenLife blog and was written by Rebecca Joseph. Dr. Joseph is a college access and admissions expert. A tenured professor at a public university, she believes that all students should have the option of a college education and does everything she can to help students, communities, and schools empower their students to make it to and through college.

About Guest Author

This post was written by a friend of Magoosh.

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