10 helpful Tips to get off the “Waitlist”

“Getting off the waitlist” is usually a combination of a little luck, targeted communication, and the power of a connection between you and your admissions officer. Yes, getting admitted from the waitlist is that subjective.

"Getting off the waitlist is a combination of a little luck, targeted communication & the power of a connection between you and your admissions officer." TWEET THIS

Colleges are up against a wall when they need to meet their enrollment goals for the incoming freshmen class. 

But there’s hope…
Here are 10 important things to know if you want to get off that waitlist.

1. Officially accept your spot on the waitlist immediately. 
Some colleges make you send a reply card, while many colleges require students to do this on-line.  No matter how competitive you are, if you don’t accept a spot on the waitlist that college will not even consider you if there’s room. 

2. Include any comments or updates when you accept your spot. 
Most colleges that offer an on-line waitlist response now provide limited space to update the admissions office on new information or why you are interested in being admitted.

3. Tell your guidance counselor how much you want to attend that college.
They can contact the college for you, find out if there’s any chance they’ll be using the waitlist, and gauge how competitive you will be on the waitlist.

4. Contact your admissions officer at the college.
The best scenario is if you can speak to the college over the phone.  Hearing your voice on the other end of the line makes you relatable to the admissions officer.  You move from being “just another applicant” to a real student with talents, passions, and a commitment to the college.  If you can’t speak to them over the phone, send them an email.

5. Tell your admissions officer how much you want to attend. 
Ask them what you can do to improve your chances of getting admitted.  The more genuine you are, the more the admissions officer will go to bat for you.

6. Decide how badly you want to attend. 
Would you give up your spot at the college you sent in your enrollment deposit to?  If so, tell your admissions officer.

7. Write the best letter you’ve ever written. 
Even if you provided comments or an update when you responded to the waitlist, you still want to send a one-page letter to the main admissions email account and/or your admissions officer directly.  This letter should be a more mature perspective than any short answer or essay you wrote for that college’s supplement.  The time you’ve had to reflect on that institution should give you even stronger reasons why you want to attend. 


TIP: Subscribe to Admissions Revolution to learn how to write the perfect college essay.


8. Clearly State that you would enroll in your letter.
Colleges want an almost guarantee that you will enroll if admitted off the waitlist.  Don’t leave any doubt if you feel that strongly about going there.

9. Open and respond to all emails coming from the college that waitlisted you.  They can track not only if you opened the email, but also if you followed through.

10. Be ready for a phone call or email after May 1st.
Most admissions officers will “pre-qualify” you before the college officially admits you.  They will contact you to see if you’re still interested.

There’s a lot of luck involved here because colleges won’t know if they plan to use the waitlist until May 1st or later.

Colleges have to wait to see how their enrollment deposits from the admitted pool of students are tracking.  If they are running behind their target, they will begin to consider what types of students they need to round out the class. Do they need more females or males? Do they need more students from a particular part of the country? Do they need more English majors or Engineering majors? More Asian Americans or African Americans? And, do they have any remaining financial aid left to give to students on the waitlist? Institutional needs will dictate who they target off the waitlist.

If you are exactly what they need and you have done everything listed above, you will have a better chance of being admitted off the waitlist. 


TIP: Most colleges will “close the class” sometime in mid‐June.


Make sure you have secured your enrollment deposit at one institution by the May 1st deadline to ensure you have a home for freshman year.  Not all colleges use the waitlist each year.  Sure, there are realities and limitations at play here, but sometimes going the extra mile can change where you end up going to college.