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What is a Waiting List and How to Get Off It

Parents, if your child's been waitlisted, please consider this: this arduous process just got longer. 

A waitlist decision is not a “yes” and it’s not a “no”. It’s a “wait, and we will see.” The waitlist is used as a pool of students who may be admitted if a university does not meet their expected level of enrollment. Essentially, if their accepted students say “no” then they probably will admit some students who are on the waiting list. The length of these lists varies between institutions but can be from a hundred to thousands of students long. There are many reasons why your child may be waitlisted for a school, including: 

  • The college is not sure if it will meet its enrollment goal. 
  • Limited financial aid budget. 
  • They are waiting for final grades.
  • They are curious about how interested you are in their institution. 

A school likely won’t tell your child why they're on the waitlist, but your guidance counselor may be able to get some extra information. Ask them to contact your admissions officer to see how high your child's chances are of getting off the waitlist might be. If your guidance counselor confirms that your child has a chance your child should take some extra steps to help their admission chances.

We know it can be nerve-racking to deal with the uncertainty of your child being on a waitlist, but don’t panic! Regardless of the reason a school has a waitlist, your child's presence on it represents a chance that they can still attend that institution. 

Remember: your child cannot be complacent, though. Once you’re on the waitlist, it’s your kid’s job to take the steps necessary to get that final acceptance. Schools want to know that you are the best fit and have a genuine interest in their institution. There are some key steps your child should follow in order to show colleges that they're the perfect candidate. Read below or check out our guide on how to get off the waitlist in our resource library at strategicadmissionsadvice.com and share it with your child.

To help your child to get off a waiting list, here is what I suggest and I added an additional article at the end. 

Your child must confirm your interest on that waitlist. Colleges won't assume that he or she wants to remain on the waitlist. If they send you something online, that reply card, a simple click of a button must be returned to them. They will have a deadline for this, so please fill it out and get it back to them ASAP so they know that you're interested.

If it’s still a top choice, make sure your child gets in touch with the admissions officer. After your child has re-expressed your interest in a college, it's time for them to reach out personally by contacting that admissions officer for that school. I call it being pleasantly persistent. If their school is one of their favorites, please tell them so. If your child will commit to them if admitted, say that. Make sure that they tell them why they’re interested and ask them how can your chances of being admitted be increased. Be genuine, and make yourself memorable.


The admissions office wants to hear from your child. They want to know what your child believes in and if it aligns with their community. For more information on how to navigate a waiting list and see what a template email looks like, check out this link: https://bit.ly/3sf1HeK



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