What To Do When You Get Waitlisted: A Step-By-Step Guide

It’s officially college admission decision season!


All across the world, students are receiving letters of acceptance and rejection. But what do you do if you get waitlisted? You’re not completely in, but you’re not completely out. It’s an awkward situation to be in because you don’t know whether to let go of the idea of getting in. Has all hope been lost? It’s hard to tell.
What steps should you take next?

1. Don’t make assumptions.

 Being put on the waitlist doesn’t mean you will get in, but it also doesn’t mean that you won’t. Don’t take it as a great sign or a terrible sign. Just stop making assumptions. Don’t expect anything, because you never know what will happen. Move on with the process.

2. Compare your options.

Compare your waitlist options with the schools you got into. If you like the schools that have already accepted you just as much as the waitlist schools, then get off the waitlist and enroll in a school you’ve gotten into. There’s no reason to stay on a waitlist arbitrarily. At the very least, deciding where you’re going to college will ease your mind. Consider that you’ll likely have to wait until after May 1st to know whether you got off the waitlist or not. That’s after almost everyone knows where they’ll be going to school. Also, consider that if you get off the list in May, your options for housing and financial aid may be greatly reduced. Students may have already taken advantage of the best of these options.

3. Prepare to attend another college.

To be safe, prepare to enroll in a college you’ve been accepted to. Put down a deposit and assume that you will be attending this school. You’ll forfeit your deposit if you get into your waitlist school, but losing a deposit is better than not having a college to attend in the fall if you don’t get off the waitlist. You want to make sure you always have options.

4. Find out what your chances are.

Call the admissions office to find out how close you are to getting in. Ask them where you are on the waitlist. But don’t go overboard. You don’t want to bother them because that will just decrease your chances of acceptance.

5. Advertise yourself.

If you have a reasonable chance at getting in and you’re highly interested in attending, take steps to portray yourself in the best light to admissions officers. Send any supplemental materials that show impressive things you’ve done since sending in your application. You could also send another recommendation letter from someone different saying something different. You don’t want to send repetitive materials. Most importantly, make sure you keep your grades as high as possible. I know it’s hard to do that second semester senior year, but you have to try if you want to get into the college of your dreams.

6. Don’t beat yourself up.

The waitlist isn’t a fun place to be. But don’t feel bad about it! Getting on the waitlist shows that the college took a real interest in you. It means that you were qualified, but they had already filled all of the spots in their class.

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

magoosh logo checks


  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

No comments yet.

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply