Being on the waitlist doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to attend your dream school. Follow these steps to make a good impression.

THE letter has arrived – will it be an acceptance? A denial? You’ve finally received it after weeks of waiting, anticipating. As you open it, your eyes browse the top paragraph and land on the words…

At this time, I would like to offer you a spot on the waitlist…

The waitlist?!

Not the acceptance you were hoping for, but still, it offers hope.

As you stare at the letter, you think – what do I do now?

Ask yourself – is this really the college I want to attend?

Take some time to think introspectively and decide if this college that waitlisted you is the right college for you. If you decide it is, there are several actions you can take to enhance your chances of getting off the waitlist. As you think this through, reflect on why you considered this college your top choice:

  • Why is this college right for me?
  • How is it the best fit academically?
  • Can attending this college help me in the ‘real world’?
  • Financially, is this the right school for me?
  • Are the social activities and clubs aligned with my interests?

Quickness is key! Respond immediately to your waitlist notification.

If you decide to pursue admission by accepting your spot on the waitlist, respond immediately! Aim to respond within 48 hours. A prompt response may indicate to the admissions office that you are extremely interested in the college.

Hello, remember me? The waitlist follow-up.

Without being brash, there are several ways to communicate with the admissions office that may prove helpful in getting off the waitlist:

  • Send a formal email or handwritten letter expressing your immense interest in attending the college. Keep it to about three paragraphs, with the initial paragraph summarizing your interest in the school and listing out why it is the right choice for you. The remaining paragraphs should expand on the details and emphasize your points as to why this school is the best fit for you.
  • Schedule an in-person meeting to get your face and name in front of the admissions office.
  • Send any supplemental material that could boost your chances such as new extracurricular activities, new academic milestones or updated test scores.
  • If your waitlist status is directly related to your test scores, such as the SAT, study some more and take that test again.
  • Reach out to your contacts to receive a new recommendation letter.

Be proactive, but no need to go as far as baking cookies or other treats to send!

Oh look at that – I just joined the Horseback Riding Club…

Between the time you applied to college and received your acceptances, denials and waitlist statuses, you may have:

  • Founded a new club
  • Joined a team
  • Improved your GPA
  • Received an award
  • Aced a college-level course
  • Earned higher SAT scores

If there is anything new to report, anything that demonstrates you are an even better candidate than when you initially applied, let that college know! It can only prove helpful. Some schools may re-evaluate waitlisted students based on their grades the second half of senior year. This is the time to work hard to place yourself in a good light for the admissions office.

Thanks, but how do I convince them I am the right candidate? 

You know what to do to enhance your changes, but how do you communicate in either a letter or face-to-face meeting? Use some of the tips below to communicate and express yourself:

  • Express exactly why you are so interested in the school – is it because of a specific program, a specific research project, a specific professor? Find out as much information as you can to communicate, in detail, to the admissions office or the individual you are talking with.
  • Communicate what you can bring to the table – play up your strengths, your skills, your hobbies. Perhaps you have an interest in the debate club or nonprofit/community organizations that the school has an affiliation with. Getting involved in clubs or causes that the school supports may make you look like a more attractive prospect.
  • Include your most recent high school achievements – such as the new activities you’ve joined, some of which are listed above, and your estimated improved GPA for the second half of the senior school year
  • Be passionate! Convey your passion and desire to attend this college. As Albert Einstein stated, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Passionate people tend to create an environment of excitement, determination, and success – traits that any admissions officer should find appealing.

It’s the final countdown… prepare for college

Once you have proactively reached out to your college and done everything to enhance your chances of gaining admission, it’s time to start preparing for college attendance:

  • Make sure you are covered financially – start searching for financial aid, scholarships and grants if need be. Start thinking about your budget and how you are going to pay for schooling and other expenses.
  • Take inventory of what you need to bring for the start of the semester – as this blogger recommends, don’t forgot to bring a FAN if your dormitory does not have air conditioning!

Last but not least… remain positive!

Whether you gain admission to your top school or not, it’s always helpful to have a positive mindset and try to remain optimistic. Even if you do not get off the waitlist for freshman year, you can always re-apply for your sophomore or junior year.

  • Take some time to absorb and reflect – you’ve reached out and expressed your interest, now be patient with the outcome.
  • Navigate the rough waters of the college waitlist process by thinking on the bright side – perhaps the second college of your choice will turn out to be a better fit, perhaps not. Reflect on the fact that you have opportunities and that hard work – wherever you end up going – will pay off.

Red Kite is your resource for finding, managing and applying to college financial aid, scholarships and grants.