5 Ways to Get Off the College Waitlist


Getting on the waitlist, especially for your first-choice college, is one of the toughest notifications to receive. Why? Because there's a lack of closure – and you may ultimately be rejected.

So, the first thing to do is to take a pause and breathe. Then, celebrate.

The decisions you receive are not a reflection of your character, but of limited capacity at top-tier colleges. There may be a difference in priorities between what colleges are looking for and what you provide at this time (I promise it’s not black and white. Younger students can get my guidance on how to navigate colleges’ priorities).

I get it, Dr. Legatt. I've come far and I can celebrate, but what do I do if I want to get off the waitlist?

Here you go...

1) Don’t get on the waitlist in the first place. Sit back and review the options you have so far. Would you want to go to one of the available options over the waitlist option? If the answer is yes, DO NOT accept a place on the waitlist and choose from the available options.

2) Review your candidacy. A lot may have happened since you submitted your applications. What new activities, awards, life circumstances, or experiences have you had since applying? When reviewing this newer information, ask yourself how it is relevant to your future goals for study and/or extracurricular activities?

3) Write to your regional admissions representative for that college to let them know you are certain you would attend if offered a space from the waitlist. Make sure that in your letter you provide updates about your candidacy (per my questions above), and share how enthusiastic and eager you are to attend.

Insider tip: Colleges care about increasing something called the yield rate (the rate at which students accepted to the college actually attend), so it is important to say that the college is your first choice and that you would definitely attend if admitted from the waitlist.

4) Get a new letter of recommendation from your counselor or an additional letter of recommendation from an alum of the college, if possible. Colleges care about relationships. Therefore, the more people you have rallying around you and your candidacy for college, the more likely you are to be selected from the waitlist.

5) Cut your losses. If the yield rate is high, there may not be any spaces available for students from the waitlist. If you are hung up on one particular college, think more broadly about why that is (beyond rankings). Is it the academic offerings, location, or culture? Once you determine this, then, choose the college that best fits with your answers to these questions.

Regarding admissions decisions, remember it’s not you, it’s them (the colleges). Colleges only have so many available seats and have to make tough decisions. If you’re on the waitlist, it means that the college believes you are highly qualified and would be successful at their campus.

Still not sure what to do? Let’s chat! Send me a note below, and I’ll do my best to answer your question.