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College admissions can be a stressful process, and that stress is only worsened when you are put on a waitlist. The biggest question many prospective students have is, “What does this mean?”

What Is Waitlisting?

When a college admissions board has reviewed an application and determined that it meets all the requirements for admission, but all the spaces have already been filled, the application goes on a waitlist until available slots open up. This can happen due to other students who have been accepted but choose not to enroll for various reasons.

The National Association of College Admission Counseling reported that in 2018 10% of college applications were put on a waitlist, and 20% of those applicants were later enrolled. So, although it seems to make things more stressful, it often just requires patience to be granted admission.

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Being Waitlisted Doesn’t Mean You Should Give Up

You may be shocked to receive notification that your college application was accepted, but you can’t enroll because you are on a waitlist. This is no reason, however, to be hard on yourself or feel defeated. Many colleges use waitlists because online applications allow many more applications to be submitted than most colleges have slots for. As more students are applying to multiple colleges but only attend one school, spots typically open up on wait lists once students decide which school to attend.

What to Do If You Are Waitlisted

If you have been waitlisted by your first choice or even multiple colleges, try to be patient and reach out to your friends, family, and counselors for support when you need it. There are a few steps you can take to continue moving forward with the college application process.

  • Notify the school that you accept their offer to be put on a waitlist.
  • Write a letter to the admissions office, or contact the admissions counselor handling your application to express your interest in attending the school. Be sure to highlight your attributes and let them know that you are looking forward to a spot opening up for you. You can also use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
  • Don’t give up on your other options. Although you accept a place on a waitlist at your preferred school, you can still evaluate your other offers and nail down a second choice if a spot doesn’t open up for you.
  • Although you may have to forfeit the deposit if a spot opens up for you at your first-choice school, put an enrollment deposit down at your second-choice school. This lets them know that you accept their admissions offer and you plan to enroll. You can still change your mind, but the last thing you want to do is miss out on both schools.

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