Five Strategies For Getting Admitted Off The Waitlist

By Brandie Erickson April 22, 2024 College Application Press Waitlist

As college admissions results continue to be sent out, students might find themselves in an uncertain predicament: the waitlist. Waitlists have become increasingly popular, with schools like Florida Atlantic University implementing a waitlist for the first time. Being put on a waitlist means that a college doesn’t have enough room for the student in their incoming admissions class, but if enough admitted students turn down their acceptance, a spot might open up for the student. 

What Are The Chances Of Getting Off The Waitlist?

The waitlist process is highly unpredictable and will vary from institution to institution and year to year. Despite schools’ efforts to estimate the number of students accepting their offer, they can often be wrong. This uncertainty underscores the importance of students having backup plans in place. 

For example, for the 2022-23 application cycle, Johns Hopkins University offered 3,443 students a spot on its waitlist. While 2,358 students accepted this spot, the university ultimately didn’t accept a single student off the waitlist. 

On the other hand, Virginia Tech had 7,587 students accept a spot on the waitlist and ended up accepting 2,458 of them.  

Getting off the waitlist is never a guarantee, and students should make alternative plans and manage their expectations on the reality of getting off the waitlist. 


What To Do While Waiting To Get Off The Waitlist?

While waiting to get off the waitlist, students should still weigh their other college acceptances and place a deposit to another university. They might not hear back from the school they are waitlisted at before May 1, so they must secure your spot at their next choice university. Many students make their college acceptances right before the national May 1 deadline for seniors to submit their enrollment deposit at a particular university, which means it is unlikely students will get off the waitlist before May 1. Some of our Moon Prep students have heard back late into the summer that they got off the waitlist, so it might take time to hear back. 


Five Strategies For Getting Admitted Off The Waitlist

While the likelihood of getting off the waitlist might be low, there are certain steps a student should take to increase their chances of getting off the waitlist. 

1. Follow The University’s Instructions

Waitlisted applicants typically can choose to accept or reject the spot on the waitlist. Students should only accept the spot if they are legitimately considering attending the university. 

Once the student has accepted a spot off the waitlist, the schools might require different next steps. Some schools like to see additional materials, like a letter of continued interest or a list of updates that have occurred since applying. Other schools do not want to see anything and will not review any additional information sent. If a student needs clarification on what the next steps for being on the waitlist are, they can reach out to their regional admissions counselors to get specific advice. 

2. Think About What’s Changed Since Applying

When students applied, it was likely back in November or January, and in the months that have passed since then, things might have changed. Think about any positive changes in grades, new leadership positions, participation in competitions or anything else that might have happened. There is no need to reiterate things that were already included in the original application to the school, but by showing any new growth that occurred since applying, the student might increase their desirability to the colleges.  

3. Demonstrate Interest In The College

Schools are ultimately trying to accept students that they think will attend their university. Re-expressing interest in the school can be a helpful tool for getting the student to the top of the waitlist. Students can visit the campus, attend virtual information sessions, or ask questions to the admission officers to demonstrate their interest. Another way to do this is by writing a letter of continued interest. 

4. Write A Letter Of Continued Interest

Through the letter of continued interest, the student should maintain a positive tone that conveys their interest in attending the university if they are accepted. They can describe any opportunities or aspects of the college that are appealing to them. The student should explicitly say why they are interested in certain opportunities instead of just listing five things they found on the school’s website. The admissions officers want to be able to connect with the students and imagine them on campus. 

The letter should also include any updates that have occurred since applying. The letter should be succinctly written—usually no more than a page in length. Before writing the letter, check to see what format the schools want the letter in. 

5. Keep Your Grades Up!

When colleges accept a student off the waitlist, admission officers typically review the student’s entire application again, meaning they will also look at the student’s grades for their entire senior year. Therefore, students should maintain their grades to prove they can handle the university’s high academic standards. 

While getting off the waitlist might seem challenging, it is always worth the effort to do everything possible to increase the student’s chances of getting accepted off the waitlist.


This article was originally posted on Forbes.