Tips to Gaining Admission from a Wait List

Written by Nell McCormack Abom, Host Smart Talk TV | Apr 22, 2010 10:38 PM

1.    Wait Lists will be active because colleges are constantly gambling that their yield on initial offers will be better than expected. They are usually wrong.

2.    When they go to the Wait List, admission officers have efficiency in mind. They want to fill their empty seats as quickly as possible. Rather than mailing offers of admission to hundreds of students, they will call or email candidates one at a time until they receive the number of commitments they need.

3.    Make sure that the school knows it is your first choice. Write a letter confirming your interest. Visit. Send new grades. Provide new insight into your performance as well as evidence of recent accomplishments that might not have appeared on your initial application.

4.    Stay on the radar screen of the staff member who recruits in your area. Make sure they know you are available and ready to accept an offer of admission. Continue to show your interest without becoming a pest.

5.    Be sure to provide evidence of your potential “hooks.” Colleges re-define their needs as they go to the Wait List. For example, they may have acquired plenty of tuba players, but now have a need for an oboist.

6.    Colleges may need students who won’t require financial assistance. If there had ever been a question about your need for financial aid, be clear about what your family can afford. Your need of assistance could well be a determining factor. Movement from Wait Lists prior to May 1 will probably be limited to students who do not need financial aid.

7.    Many Wait List offers will come after the May 1 deadline for submitting enrollment deposits. If such a call comes, you need to be prepared to decide quickly (often in 24 hours) whether you want to forfeit an earlier enrollment at another school in order to take advantage of the acceptance from the Wait List.

8.    Don’t allow yourself to become so preoccupied with the Wait List situation that you lose track of your more immediate options. If the Wait List offer doesn’t come, you need to be ready to embrace one of your other options.

So, take heart. The enrollment opportunities from the Wait List are very real. In fact, competing for admission from the Wait List is like playing in a contest that has gone into overtime. If you assume the game is lost, you can’t win. Keep “playing,” then—hard and smart—to give yourself a chance for a happy outcome.

Peter Van Buskirk is an author, consultant, speaker and creator of the Best College Fit™ Resources. Visit to learn more about Peter and his student-centered approach to college planning.

Published in Life After 12th Grade

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