Dear QB: I’m on a college wait list. Now what?

DearQBIf you’ve been put on a college’s wait list, it may feel like you’re in the purgatory of college admissions decisions. Neither a clear “yes” nor a downright “no,” the wait list can be an unsettling place to be.

Although there isn’t a foolproof method to getting of a college’s wait list, we’re here to help you navigate this uncharted territory. Here are a few tips to help you demonstrate your continued interest to the college(s) at the top of your list:

Accept the wait list invitation, if there is one.

Responsiveness is crucial, especially if you’re on the wait list. If the college has sent you a form to accept their wait list invitation, fill it out as soon as possible and closely follow directions. Be prompt, professional, and courteous in all of your communications.

If you are no longer interested in the school that waitlisted you, consider declining the wait list invitation to possibly open up that spot for another student.

Reach out to your admissions representative.

At this point in the admissions process, your regional admissions representative is likely the best person to contact. You can find out who this is by checking the college’s admissions website or getting in touch with the admissions office.

When you reach out to the representative, don’t simply restate everything you’ve already outlined in your application.

  • Share significant academic or extracurricular achievements you have had since you applied.
  • Detail specific and new reasons why you are a good fit for the campus. What do you intend to study? Which professors and/or classes are you most excited about? Which campus activities will you contribute to?
  • If the college is your top choice, be bold! Write a letter committing to going to that college if you get off the wait list. Note: Only do this for your top choice. Do not do this at more than one college!

Celebrate your current college choices!

Instead of dwelling on the wait list, spend time considering the colleges that have already accepted you. Explore what could make them a great fit for you. This is exactly what QuestBridge Scholar Arkey Barnett did when he was waitlisted from his dream school, and he ended up falling in love with Williams College, where he is now a freshman. Watch his story >>

At this point, you will likely want to send in your deposit to secure a place at one of the colleges that has accepted you. Keep in mind that you’ll unfortunately have to forfeit the deposit if you are accepted from the other college’s wait list.

Who knows … after some additional research, you may find that you are just as happy (and even happier!) enrolling at one of the colleges that has already accepted you.