Why Did I Get Waitlisted by a College?

Being waitlisted is confusing and annoying. Sometimes you just wish colleges would make a choice! Either accept or deny. When you’re on the waitlist, you’re in a weird limbo. Are you in or out? Is this college still a possibility or should you just forget about it?

So why would a college ever put you in such an awkward position? Why would they put you on a list, rather than sending an acceptance or rejection letter? In order to understand why you were waitlisted, the first thing you need to know is what a waitlist really is.

What is a waitlist?

A waitlist is a tool colleges use to ensure that they will fill all of the spots in their incoming class. When schools send out acceptance letters, they know that not all of the applicants they accept will choose to enroll. For this reason, they will usually send out more acceptance letters than they actually have spots for. But sometimes their calculations are off. It’s possible that more accepted students choose not to enroll than they originally expected. In this case, they wouldn’t have enough students to fill up their class.

Here’s where the waitlist comes in. Admissions officers place qualified students on a waitlist, so if an accepted student decides not to attend, they can fill the empty spot with a waitlisted student. That’s why you would get the call or email that you’ve been accepted off the waitlist and have a place in the freshman class.

But if you’re qualified, why were you waitlisted and not accepted?

You’re clearly qualified enough to attend the school. You weren’t rejected. After all, there’s a possibility you could be taken off the waitlist and be accepted. But perhaps you are slightly less qualified than other applicants who the college would prefer to accept. These applicants may even be overqualified. And at some schools with very low acceptance rates, you may be extremely similar to an accepted student, but the school simply didn’t have enough space for you. So you were placed on the waitlist as a consolation.

Don’t feel bad about being waitlisted.

Being waitlisted can feel pretty terrible. But don’t beat yourself up about it! You shouldn’t take this decision personally. Many students have similar levels of qualification, so college decisions end up being almost arbitrary. Remember that thousands of students apply and there are only so many spots.

At this point, your best option is probably to consider attending another college, because you can never assume that you will be taken off the list. There are lots of great schools out there. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You never know, maybe being waitlisted was a sign. That school wasn’t meant for you anyway.

Looking for more information about what you should do next? Check out these waitlist FAQs.

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  • 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.

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