Been Waitlisted? What’s Your Backup Plan?
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Yesh Datar in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
In this post, we discuss how to make a backup plan if you’ve been waitlisted. For more information on waitlists, check out our blog post on common reasons for being waitlisted.
Staying on the Waitlist
After weeks of waiting, you open up your admissions letter or email only to find that it doesn’t say that you’ve been accepted . . . or rejected. Instead, you’ve been offered a spot on the waitlist. Should you take it? If you do, what’s your backup plan?
The choice of whether to stay on the waitlist is completely yours, but know that taking yourself off the waitlist is a permanent choice. If you give up your waitlist spot, you also give up your chance to be considered for admission later in the cycle.
If you’re excited about an offer from another school, it probably makes sense to accept that offer and begin making plans for the future rather than going through the waitlist process, where there are limited spaces and no guarantees.
However, if you’re interested in attending the school where you’ve been waitlisted, it may be worthwhile to stay on the list and put in additional effort to make sure you’re as strong a candidate as possible. Choosing to remain on the waitlist should come with the understanding that you’ll have work ahead of you to maximize your waitlist potential.
What to Do While You Wait
If you decide to stay on the waitlist, what should you do while you wait? The answer is twofold: make backup plans, and prepare to hear back from your waitlist applications.
Making a backup plan involves confronting the reality that ultimately, most waitlisted applicants will not be offered admission. This doesn’t reflect poorly on you, however. Competitive colleges have to turn down many qualified applicants, and there’s always an element of chance involved. It can still be hard to give up on a school that you were hoping to attend, but the good news is that in many ways, college is what you make it. Even if another college doesn’t initially seem perfect for you, it might end up being a great fit.
While you’re waiting to hear back about your waitlist status, you should continue moving forward as though you won’t be accepted and thinking about how to make the most of life at another school. In a way, you should pretend as if you were never on the waitlist in the first place. This more practical approach will benefit you in the long run.
Next, you’ll need to decide between the schools that have offered you admission. Evaluating your choices and coming to a final decision is rarely easy, but it’s a personal and important journey. Once you’ve decided where to attend, you’ll need to do whatever that school asks to secure your spot. Don’t worry—
this decision won’t impact your chances of being admitted from the waitlist at another school. Colleges understand that making a backup plan is a wise and mature decision.
Many schools ask admitted applicants to submit a deposit to confirm their enrollment. These deposits are often nonrefundable, so if you do get accepted off the waitlist at your first choice and withdraw from your backup school, you won’t get the money back.
These deposits can be a significant amount of money, but despite the potential monetary loss, if you’re accepted off the waitlist, making an enrollment deposit is the safest, most secure way to proceed. If you’re unsure about whether you can afford to do this, discuss the situation with your family and guidance counselor for more information and support.