The dreaded waitlist. You weren’t rejected, but you weren’t accepted, either.
The waitlist means the colleges like you well enough, they just don’t love you enough to accept you. They want to keep you hanging on until they find out if they’re loved back by the students they did choose to accept.
▪ Hopefully you received an acceptance from another college that you like even better. Easy decision – inform the college that wait-listed you that you’re no longer interested and have made other plans.
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▪ You were wait-listed by your first choice school and you’d sell your youngest sibling to go there. Easy decision – you make a deposit at one of the colleges where you were accepted and let the first-choice college know that you’d very much love to remain on their waitlist.
▪ You can’t decide. You want to be done with this and know where you’re going next fall. But you’d really love to go to a college where you were wait-listed. You still need to make a deposit before May 1 at one college where you were already accepted. You can choose to remain on one or more colleges’ waitlists.
Choosing to remove yourself or stay on a waitlist seems to be more a psychological decision than a statistical decision. The waitlist conversion to acceptance numbers, particularly at the most selective schools, aren’t very encouraging.
You can find out each college’s waitlist history on the College Board website; www.collegeboard.com. After you type in the name of the school, click on “Applying,” and for most colleges you’ll be able to their most recent waitlist stats.
One word of caution: Waitlists are notoriously nonpredictive. Being accepted from a waitlist is tied entirely to the yield – the number of students who choose to attend.
As an example, if a college had a yield rate of 50 percent last year and it increased to 65 percent this year, they won’t be taking anyone off the waitlist; instead, they’ll be hunting for beds for freshmen. On the other hand, when the yield shrinks, the waitlist opens up; it’s just too variable to be predictable.
Students and families need to evaluate the impact of the stress on the student at this point. Some students approach the decision in a matter-of-fact, easy-going manner: “If I get in, great; if I don’t, that’s fine too.”
But many other students have already had their hearts broken once or even twice, if they were first deferred and then wait-listed. Unfortunately, many students take college rejections and waitlists too personally and beat themselves up over it, many sadly thinking they have disappointed their parents.
For many of these students, closure is a good thing. Let’s encourage them to make their best decision about the colleges that really want them and then encourage them to get excited about their new adventures ahead.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.