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Waitlisted: Now What?

Getting waitlisted by your dream college can put you in a quagmire at the very outset. It is understandable if the first emotion is one of restlessness before you think about the next step. Once the prima facie disappointment is over, it is time for an emotional as well as an application overhaul.

It is necessary to clear your mind, take a deep breath, and examine what is the next step.

What is waitlisting?

Every year colleges receive thousands of applications not only from the residents of the country but students all over the world. There are usually only a few hundred seats for thousands of applications. It usually means the candidate is a good fit, but the school has reached its admission capacity, and he or she must ‘wait’ until a spot falls vacant. This depends on how many of the admitted students choose to attend the school finally.

Sometimes colleges have their internal diversity commitments and profile targets which can result in some exceptional applicants being put on the waitlist. Thus, being waitlisted can also be due to some external factors that maybe beyond the applicants control in that particular year.

What does it mean for you?

You put in a strong application that was able to meet the evaluation criteria. There were many aspects of your application that were liked by the admissions committee. Overall, they had a positive assessment of your application. However, there were other applicants who had a stronger application than you in certain aspects, and due to the limited class size, that number exceeded the class strength. You should take pride that you are put on a waitlist, because not everyone gets that opportunity, and it is still better than outright rejection since you still have a shot.

Having said that, if you are waitlisted, it is advisable to take the following steps:

  1. Accept or reject a spot on the waitlist

    If you have been accepted by an alternate school of our choice, then it is needless to say you should not accept the waitlist offer. However, if you do choose to accept the offer, make sure you consider your eagerness to attend the program.
  2. Re-iterate your interest in the program and your fit for the broader community

    As soon as you get the waitlisted letter, write to the admissions committee reiterating your interest in the program. That way you are demonstrating a keen interest in the program. While every university has its unique way of processing a waitlist, re-iterating your interest in the program will showcase your keenness to attend the program, if offered a spot. Some colleges might require additional materials to reconsider your application, while others do not entertain any add-ons. Remember, being proactive will be crucial, so try to reach out to the admissions committee for feedback on your application, if they provide that. Also, keep an eye out for webinars that are directed toward waitlisted candidates, as there are some universities that provide that.
  3. Don’t put all the eggs in one basket

    This means don’t depend on getting on the program once put on the waitlist. You must secure your admit as soon as you get accepted to an alternative college of your choice. As per the National Association of College Admissions Counselling, colleges on average admit 20% of students off the waitlist. This can go down to single digits in more competitive schools. Many schools provide deadlines when you will get to know if they will be able to move you off the waitlist. If you were waitlisted in Round 1, chances are schools may want to look at the Round 2 pool prior to evaluating your application. It is prudent to not depend on the waitlist, else it might land up costing you another year.

    Given this fact, always hedge your bets by applying to other schools in the subsequent deadlines.
  4. Stop trying to figure out the odds

    Unfortunately, most colleges don’t disclose their selection criteria, which can depend on a plethora of factors unique to every institution. This can include how many, and what type of students are admitted, including international students, diversity candidates, etc. While some colleges have data on their previous year’s waitlist, in all likelihood it will not be the same for this year.

    One prudent step is informing the schools of alternate offers you might have so that they can let you know the final decision before the other school’s deposit deadline.
  5. Continue to build on your profile

    You cannot take a backseat once the application is submitted. Schools are admitting you on the promise of performing well and exhibiting your enterprise. If waitlisted, you can exhibit these qualities by taking on new projects/ventures/promotion/international projects/leadership roles and communicating the same to the said school. Additionally, you can also retake the GMAT score, which has historically been the most effective tool to get off the waitlist. This might increase your chances of making the final cut.

    In your reapplication essay, you can include some of these developments. Additionally, you can reach out to existing students, or alumni to endorse your application.

    Lastly, be prepared with your final outcome!

    Most colleges announce admits from the wait list by end of May, following which they expect a reply within 24 to 72 hours. This means you have to be prepared in advance with respect to your final decision, as well as financials, logistics, etc. Make sure to inform the school via email once you have paid the deposit fee. Following this, get all the paperwork in order and get ready to attend school!