March Madness: The Wait List

By Adela Penagos, PhD, President

You had been checking your email messages non-stop for the past two weeks, hoping to get the news you have been waiting for since submitting your application: getting into your dream college or program.  Your heart was pumping when you received the email or text, and suddenly, you realized that instead of an acceptance, you have been offered a spot on the wait list.  Disappointment filters through the air, you are mad and frustrated.  After all that work, you still might have to wait some more?  What can you do? 

1. Accept the Spot on the Wait List.

First and foremost, follow the college’s or program’s guidelines to secure the spot on the wait list if this is indeed a dream school or program for you.  Most places have a deadline. Do not let this pass you by.

2. Connect with your regional admissions counselor.

Ideally, you have established a connection with your regional admissions counselor before this time, when you visited the college or program, or during a college or program fair.  If this is the case, send out a quick email next week to express your continued interest in the institution and your gratitude to have a spot on the wait list.  If you have not made a connection with this individual yet, then take this opportunity to introduce yourself.

3. Being on a Wait List Can Still Be Hopeful.

It is possible that this is uncharted territory for you, as you have always gotten everything you applied for, or you have been on a wait list before, but have forgotten what it is like to have to wait.  Regardless, being wait listed can test everyone’s patience.  But, you can view this as an opportunity, to closely reflect on why you feel this college or program is the perfect fit for you.  If there is a new way in which you see yourself growing intellectually and personally by attending this college or program, talk to your college advisers, and work with them to discern if it would be wise to write a new short statement to submit to the admissions selection committee. 

4. Has anything changed since you applied?

If you have accomplished any new goals, improved your grades, or received new awards since the time you submitted your application, this is the time to strategically make a list of those changes and describe briefly how they have helped you become even more ready than before for the next stage in your life in this particular college or program.

 Remember, while it is common to feel frustrated by being wait listed, you are not alone, many of us have been in your shoes before.  I always look at these curve balls that life throws at us as an opportunity to become resilient.  Many wait lists open up and while we cannot count on this being always the case, sometimes, we end up flourishing at the institution that we thought was our second choice or, over time, decide to transfer to the institution that wait listed us.  What is important is that you look at this situation as one of the possible outcomes of the application process and not a reflection of your abilities or your potential.