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The Waiting Game: What to do if You’re Waitlisted

So, you’re waitlisted at your dream school. Don’t sit back and wait for the acceptance letter you are hoping for to hit your inbox. There are things you can do now to increase your chances of acceptance to your top college. If your high school GPA, course rigor, and SAT/ACT scores make you a competitive candidate, now is the time to reinforce your interest to the admissions committee.

To be clear, there are poor examples of students attempting to demonstrate interest that may hurt their chances of admission. No amount of baked cookies and cleverly-composed poems will sway the admissions office. So what can you do to get improve your chances of admission and what does it mean to be waitlisted? You’ve already shown you have the grades, strength of curriculum, and test scores to excel on campus. The admissions committee just could not accept you because there were too many qualified applicants and not enough seats. As accepted students decline offers of admission, colleges turn to their waitlists. Here’s where it pays off to not just wait. There are two ways in which you can improve your chances of admission are with supplementary information to your application and appropriate demonstrated interest.

First, if you have anything that might improve your hard numbers related to grades or test scores, you’ll want to be sure to send those along. Maybe your mid-semester grades would nudge you up from the B+ into the A- range. Maybe your February ACT scores are your highest yet. Those data points can communicate several things to the officer reading your application. First, it shows that you are a more competitive candidate than your application shows. Second, it shows that you are interested enough in that school to keep it updated on your mid-semester status. Finally, an improved GPA or admissions test score shows that you have grit. Maybe you hit a few road bumps your junior spring or senior fall, but you are showing that you can get back on track quickly.

You can also update your application with more qualitative aspects, for example, teacher recommendations or awards. If you have showed marked improvement in a class, or if you have a new teacher to whom you have given solid academic performance, you might consider asking them to write a supplementary recommendation. You only want to do this, though, if it would improve your application. If your grades have remained relatively consistent, it will only bug the admissions officer to receive data points that don’t change their view of you.

If you do decide that your GPA or test scores are worth sending to your admissions office, speak with your high school counseling office first. They may need to receive a request from you before sending along additional information.

In addition to improving your GPA or test score status, you can also demonstrate your interest in a number of ways. You could check in with the admissions office to confirm the status of your application. You could visit your college’s campus and hand write a letter to the admissions office thanking them for the opportunity to learn more about the school. Be sensitive to your college, though. A highly selective institution typically worries less about yield and, as a result, doesn’t place as much importance on demonstrated interest. A mid-range school, concerned with admitting students who are likely to attend, may be more receptive of campus visits and the demonstrated interest that such touches communicate. Also, be sensitive to the pressure that admissions officers are under. They have a month to go before admissions decisions go out, and they may still have hundreds of applications to sift through. The last thing you want is to irritate an admissions officer who will have that negative impression before considering your application.

Updating your application and demonstrating your interest can, in specific circumstances, improve your chances of admission. However, if your GPA and test scores have stayed the same since you mailed in your application, and if you feel that you have already demonstrated your interest to admissions officers with college visits, phone calls, emails, and handwritten letters, you’ve already done your best! You are free to enjoy your last semester of high school, knowing that you will end up at a college in the fall that is right for you.


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