The Weight of the Waitlist

The Weight of the Waitlist

If your child has been put on the waitlist for their college of choice, you know the ache of watching them struggle under the weight of it.  The feeling of being in limbo can be hard to bear, and it’s difficult to know what to do next. Although the waitlist isn’t a closed door, it can certainly feel like one, and knowing how and when to take action is important. 


This is Not Rejection!

The first thing to remember is that this is not a rejection letter. The difference between a simple “no” and the “maybe” of a waitlist is significant.  There are a lot of reasons why a school puts students on a waitlist, and some of them have nothing to do with the students themselves.   A “no” means your child did not meet the admission standards the school has in place.  The waitlist, on the other hand, often  they did qualify, but the school has more qualified applicants than spaces available.  They may also be using the waitlist to find out which students are using them as a safety.  So, don’t let discouragement win the game, and remind your student of all they still have ahead of them.


You Have Options

Being put on the waitlist for the school they’ve been dreaming of can suddenly make you and your student feel like you’re in the passenger seat and completely out of control.  You’re not!  You still have decision power in the game.  This is a great opportunity to take a closer look at the other options available to you.  You may have been so infatuated with this one school, you missed what may be an even better fit for your child.  After taking a closer look, you may discover you don’t need to wait on a waitlist after all.  This isn’t a dead end, but it may be a valuable detour.


There is Hope

The reality is, most people don’t get taken off the waitlist, but it’s not unheard of.  If you’ve reassessed your list, and you’re ready to wait it out, here are some tips to help your child know what to and what not to do along the way.  


DO keep your grades up – they will be key to your success.


DON’T let senioritis distract you from your goals. 


DO follow the school’s instructions to the letter.  


DON’T ignore any single detail of the information they offer you.


DO send a concise letter (in late April / early May) including any new information and explaining why they’re your school of choice.


DON’T over-communicate or send superfluous materials they didn’t ask for.


DO be humble, sincere, and gracious in any communication with them.


DON’T try to be clever or do something outlandish to get noticed.


DO call only if you haven’t been told not to call, and only if you are capable of keeping calm composure.


DON’T try to talk your counselor into calling unless you have an unusually close relationship with them.


Keep Perspective

Ultimately, keep in mind that there is no “one school” that is going to be the only place in the whole world your child will be able to thrive and attain their success.  Take some time to process and gain perspective on how much is still in store for them so you can help them achieve that same successful perspective.  The future is bright!

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