Wait-Listed: Some Do’s and a Don’t


You toured colleges excitedly. You poured over websites. You followed all of College Foundation of North Carolina’s (CFNC) helpful advice. You filed all of your paperwork well before the deadlines. Finally, the day comes when your top college choice responds, and it turns out you’ve not been accepted…but you’re not exactly rejected either. You’ve been wait-listed!

For prospective college students, being on the waitlist can be a special kind of purgatory. Some students will give up on their dream college and move along to exciting and productive learning experiences at their second-choice school. Some students can take being on the waitlist very personally and let feelings of doubt and rejection derail their higher education dreams. Still other students make a third choice: For them, the glass is still “half full.” After all, they weren’t told “no”; they were told “maybe.”

So, what do you do if you fall into that third optimistic category?  College Foundation of North Carolina has some helpful advice on what you can do (AND what you shouldn’t!) to help increase your chances of making your dream college your reality.

Keep in contact.

Once you receive your notice, respond as quickly as you can. Let the school know as soon as you can that you have accepted their offer to be on the waitlist and follow it up with an email, maybe even a phone call. You don’t want to rehash all the information you’ve already provided; you just want to let the school know that you are still positive and enthusiastic about attending.

You can also use this opportunity to update the admissions office on any changes in your application. Perhaps your GPA improved…or you were recognized for volunteering in your community. Any updates that can tip the scale in your favor should be mentioned.

DON’T STALK! You do not want to be the student calling every couple of days, checking on your status.

Can you handle the stress?

All the waiting and wondering about wait-listing can be stressful. Only you know if it’s worth it. While there are things you can do to help increase your odds of getting off the list and being offered a spot, in reality, it’s an uphill battle. A U.S. News & World Report survey found that among their 91 ranked schools that took part in the survey, the average proportion of students accepted off a waitlist for fall 2015 was 20 percent. You need to make sure the university is worth the mental effort and that you can deal with uncertainty. Most wait-listed applicants won’t hear anything about admission until well after the May 1 deadline. Some won’t know until right before the fall.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

If  CFNC can emphasize just one thing to you about wait-listing, it is this: proceed with Plan B. Even if you are hoping for that chance at Top Choice University, it is still wise to enroll at another school and submit your deposit before the deadline ends. This way you can be assured of having somewhere to go when the fall rolls around. If you get the green light at your school of choice you’ll probably have to forego the deposit, but it might be a better option than having no school to attend when the fall semester begins.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you do get that call, you may not have time to do much thinking. Some schools have a quick turnaround policy. After all, they’re trying to fill up empty slots before the next semester begins. You need to make sure you are 100 percent committed to your “yes” before you make it. Are your parents going to be involved in this decision? It’s best to have that conversation BEFORE you get the call so that when time is of the essence, you can unequivocally say yes.

Being on the waitlist can be challenging, but it can also lead to the experience you’ve dreamed of since you first began exploring schools. If you have questions about being on the waitlist at your school specifically, contact the school’s admissions department. If you are seeking general information about what steps to take next, call CFNC’s Call Center at 866-866-CFNC.