How to Get off the College Wait List | College Made Simple

The wait list.  College admissions purgatory.

You’re not in, but you’re not out.  You’re left to do nothing but… well, wait.

And it’s happening to tons of students.  Last year Stanford and Yale each put nearly a thousand students on wait list.  Duke put more than THREE thousand…

Why does it happen?  Well, in some instances colleges do feel the need to fill quotas.   An we’re  not just talking race or nationality.  Athletes, musicians, artists and scientists… More than anything, colleges and universities like to have well rounded classes.
And sometimes that variety can lead one student to receive acceptance while another equally qualified applicant is sent to the wait list.
There’s also the fact that more students are applying to college than ever these days.  And top schools simply can’t fit all the kids that would like to attend.

But the good news is that those applicants are also applying to a wider variety of schools, which means many of them will decline admission. And that’s when the wait list comes into play.

If you’re on it, you could be next in line for consideration.
Now while the discouragement of not getting into a college right away can cause you to adopt a “there’s nothing I can do about it now” attitude – there’s actually a few things you CAN do to turn that wait list spot into a spot on campus in the Fall.
  • If you do get wait listed, respond quickly to the school.  How long it takes you to get back to them is a big indicator of how eager you are to attend if offered admission down the line.
  • If a school is your first choice, make sure the school knows that.  Colleges want students who want them.  There’s no better way to show them that than letting them know they’re #1 on your list.
  • If you receive a new set of grades after you get wait listed, make sure you send them along, provided they’ll help your cause.  A great set of final semester marks can be a real eye opener.
  • If you’ve got a “hook” you can contribute to the class (you’re a great lacrosse player… you’re leading a community service trip… you just got the lead in the spring musical), let them know.  Colleges want students who are going to stand out and contribute something to the school.   Show them what you can bring.
  • If you have a good relationship already with a coach or faculty member at the school, get in touch and ask for advice.  Don’t ask for a favor, because this will likely rub them the wrong way and look like you’re trying for special treatment.  But asking politely for any wisdom they can share on some good ways to get yourself front and center to the admissions committee certainly can’t hurt.
  • Keep in touch but don’t be a pest.  An email or two or a phone call to your admissions contact or recruiter will keep you at the forefront of their mind.  But don’t overdo it.  A little goes a long way here.
  • Make sure the college knows exactly what you can afford to pay.  The wait listing could have been a financial decision.  Be positive they have all your numbers correct and everyone is on the same page money-wise.

Wait listing can certainly be disappointing, especially if it’s coming from a school you’re intent on going to.  But it’s not the end of the world.

Remember, it’s not a “no.”  You may have to do just a bit more work to get to your goal, but that goal is still attainable.
Don’t throw your arms up in the air and walk away.  Make sure you’ve done everything you can to let a school know what kind of asset you’ll be.  Wait listing is your last chance to shine.  You should absolutely stay proactive and take advantage of it.
To Your Successful College Admission,
Scott Weingold
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1 Comment

susan hortnessMay 16th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Thank you interesting information

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.