As decisions keep rolling out, I know you might have some questions. First, a note: I know getting that waitlist decision can be painful. It is, in lots of ways, a soft rejection and that’s by far the healthiest way to look at it, but that’s also what makes it sting even more. So, be sure to take care of yourself. I’ll be writing more about that in the incoming weeks as we start feeling the full brunt force of decisions, but here are a couple of my posts from the fall that might help you through your feelings. 

You are a badass college applicant — especially when decisions don’t go your way. A metaphor about trees. 

It’s time for emotional planning. Spoiler Alert: You’re gonna be ok.

About the Waitlist — The Nitty Gritty Lowdown

I have a feeling we are gonna have a big ole humongo pile of waitlists this year, just like last year. Colleges just don’t have any way to predict their enrollments because of the way everything has been upended in the past year and the huge waves of applications that have happened at So. Many. Colleges. As they did last year, I think many will try to manage their yield and freshmen classes with the waitlist — and I know y’all are beginning to feel the effects of that now. Rick Clark, Director of College Admission at Georgia Tech says,Right now, admission and enrollment leaders around the country are obsessing over the models they developed to predict student “yield” behavior. They are looking back at pre-pandemic information and weighing that against 2020, in addition to praying more, sleeping less, and stretching out to make the “leap.””  You should read the whole linked blog post by the way.  

Last year we saw a wave of applicants get accepted off waitlists, but that was a rare year. Usually, I’d say, think of it as a gentle rejection — and I still do for the most part. So, although I encourage you to be proactive if that school is one you’re truly interested in (read what to do below), you still need to move forward and embrace the colleges who have shown you love and accepted you (or find some). You can do both at the same time. 

One of our former moderators on A2C, u/LRFE, had a great post about what the waitlist is and what it all means. I’m just gonna copy and paste some of it here (with some of my revisions): 

“Colleges use a waitlist mainly to manage yield and class size. They have an idea of how many students they want in the class and admit some amount that will end up being around the class size. However, since they can’t predict yield perfectly, they sometimes turn to the waitlist to fill up the rest of their class.

Colleges often have an FAQ about waitlists or an FAQ that answers questions about waitlists. It varies from college to college: do your own research… Schools often release some statistics on waitlist acceptance rates: for example, Amherst states 500 people accept their waitlist spot, and on average, accept 20 per year. “

NUMERO UNO: DO NOT STAY DEVOTED TO YOUR WAITLIST COLLEGE(S). Just like with admissions– it’s ok to be hopeful, but hope for the best, while expecting the worst. Submit your LOCI and then treat it like a rejection. You might be surprised in the future, but just don’t even consider it an option, because statistically, it isn’t.

FALL IN LOVE WITH AN ACCEPTANCE: Fall in love (or strong like) with at least one of your acceptances. Learn as much as you can about them through various virtual visit sites: hang out on their webpages, follow their social media, do their tours and info sessions, or even make a class schedule so you can see all the cool courses they offer! 

WAITLISTS AREN’T BINDING: You can accept spots on as many waitlists as you like. You can stick with the school where you’ve deposited or choose to attend your waitlisted school, but more than likely you’ll lose your deposit at the college where you’ve accepted a spot — and you should accept a spot somewhere. 

COMMIT TO ANOTHER SCHOOL: Go ahead and submit your deposit when the time comes that you need to do so, and also emotionally and mentally commit. Accept a place from one of your acceptances where you’ve fallen in love (or strong like or you can see yourself there) by the May 1 deadline or whatever your accepted college’s deadline is (I know some of that is shifting this year). Mentally Move On. Once you’ve made your deposit at college, if your waitlist college comes along with some great news and you decide you want to pivot that way, then you just accept that spot and let the college where you’ve committed know. It’s common — it’s called Melt and colleges expect it. You will more than likely, though, lose that deposit. (An aside: Don’t let go of your accepted spots before the deadline unless you are 100 percent sure that you won’t attend. Be doubly sure that all finances are gonna work out before you let go of spots.)

YOU STILL HAVE CHOICES: If you don’t have a school you’re ready to commit to, there are still lots of amazing schools accepting applications. Reach out to me if you want to add some schools to your list.

IMPORTANT PSA ABOUT YOUR PHONE: if you have accepted waitlist positions, be sure that your phone is charged and working and that you can accept voicemails. And be sure that the number they have is one you will be checking. Often colleges will call you about a waitlist offer before they email you or text you, so they need to be able to reach you. Also, make sure to read random texts and check spam and junk email folders fairly regularly. Don’t check it obsessively. That’s not healthy. 

KEEP UP YOUR GRADES: You need to be keeping those grades up so that if the waitlist goes on into the summer and you want to stay on the list, you’ll be able to send them an update showing that you’re still going strong. 


Read the waitlist letter: Be sure to carefully read the waitlist letter from your college and see if they are open to a WL-LOCI. If they are and you decide you still want to take a spot on the waitlist, this WL-LOCI is your chance, so write the love letter of your life during the next couple of weeks.  Hint — don’t wait for Ivy Day to write your WL-LOCI for colleges where you’ve been waitlisted now. I don’t know if it makes a difference or not quite frankly, but it’s good to get moving on those letters and let them know how important they are to you. 

Read the waitlist letter: Read the directions carefully that they send you in the waitlist letter. I know I’m repeating myself here — it’s because that’s the most important thing to do. If they don’t say not to send something — SEND SOMETHING.

Show Interest: If you will definitely attend, let them know. Also, if you’re so interested in attending, that you’d consider after a gap year or starting second semester, you should let them know that, too. But don’t lie.

Be Honest: If you will definitely attend if you are admitted, tell them so. But don’t lie.

Be Nice: Be Positive. Thank them for the continued opportunity to be considered. Don’t complain or whine about being waitlisted in your WL-LOCI. Don’t ask them why you weren’t admitted.

Be Yourself: Just like in your personal essay, use your normal word choices and voice. Be friendly. This is like your chance to sit and have a cup of bubble tea with them, letting them know why y’all are a great match.

Bare your Soul: Tell them why you are so enamored with them and give them reasons to be enamored by you. Bare your soul. Draw connections between yourself and the college. Watch all the virtual videos — especially from their website, read their website and the school newspaper, learn their school motto and then tie all that into how you are the right person for that campus. Your goal is to create a picture of you on their campus. Show them why they need you and why you need them. Think of this as really the ultimate Why College Love Letter. 

500 words is enough: Keep it at around 500 words. Definitely no more than 600.

Updates: Include any updates to your application. You can bullet point these, so they are easier to identify. If you’ve improved any test scores or grades, tell them. If you’ve won awards or competitions since your application or last update, tell them. But updates can be more personal, too; maybe you reached a personal goal of walking 3200 miles, benching 200 pounds, writing one poem a day for six months, winning a game in Fortnite, building toothpick houses, or building a castle out of toothpicks. You can start this paragraph with something like “since my application or my last update….”

Be Specific: Describe something specific from a virtual tour, info session, instagram story, live tour if you were lucky enough to go on campus. If you haven’t done any of that stuff, do it now. Mention classes, profs, clubs, news stories — do your research. 

Don’t Hold Back: There is no holding back now. This is your time to let it all out. Show them why they need you. As I said, bare your soul.

About the Format: If you would like to send a handwritten letter, that’s fine, some kids do, but make sure you send the same letter in an email and copy that to the admissions office, your regional AO if there is one, and the director of admissions. Don’t use some funky colorful font or weird format here. Let your words, your love for the school, and your voice do the work. 

Who: Unless they say otherwise, address the email to the admissions officer who signed your letter and to your regional admissions officer if you have one. Additionally, copy the email to the general admissions office and the director of admissions, and upload to your portal if that’s available to you. I get lots of questions about whether to include the letter in the text of the email or as a pdf. After doing a little research, I’m suggesting both! You can just say at the end something like, “I’ve attached a pdf of this letter in case it’s easier for you to upload to my file.”

When: If they don’t give guidance about their deadline, I advise sending the letter by mid-April, and then perhaps a short follow up in the first or second week of May (again instructions from the college either in the waitlist letter or on the admissions portal preempt any advice I give, so read everything they send you carefully)

Find your Inner Elsa: Still, even after you’ve sent that letter, don’t plan on the waitlist working out — no matter how much solid soul-bearing you did in your WL-LOCI. Make other plans. Write your letter, send it, be like Elsa, and let it go. LIfe’s too short to wait around on college acceptances. 


UPDATE YOUR INTERVIEWER: Consider updating your interviewer and letting them know. Maybe they have some advice, but either way, it’s a courtesy to them no matter what the decision.

ADDITIONAL LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION: Consider sending in one new or an additional letter of recommendation. I suggest having that letter present a side of you they might not have seen — maybe from a boss or a club coordinator. Again, read the directions from the college. If they say not to send any additional materials — don’t.

REACH OUT TO YOUR ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR: Make sure they know of your interest, but don’t be a bother. 

Actually send something. Letters of Continued Interest are actually fairly rare considering the volume of waitlisted students, so your letter will probably be read and considered. Most students take a waitlist as an L and move on. Briefly tell them why you are a great fit for their school and why it’s your top choice. A lot of schools consider demonstrated interest, especially for waitlisted or borderline applicants.