There are acceptance letters from colleges and denial letters and everyone knows what those are. But what’s this “wait list” thing about? What does that mean?
The wait list is a way for colleges to make sure they have the right class size they are looking for. It’s their way of saying to you, “we know you can succeed here, but there are other students we think are better except we’re not sure how many of them will choose to come here.” They know that most students they accept off the wait list will take them up on their offer.
If you are put on the wait list, here’s what you want to do:
Read the letter carefully.
Follow the directions. Some colleges may ask you to send back a card or go online and confirm that you do want to be on their wait list. If you don’t confirm, then you are removed from the wait list.
Work hard your senior year. Colleges may ask to see your senior year grades to decide who are the best candidates to come off the wait list.
The wait list may not be a list at all! Colleges organize wait lists in many different ways. Some may be able to tell you “You’re in the top ten on our wait list.” Others, may have a their list “grouped,” based on how students scored in the admissions process based on academic and personal scores. They’ll accept students in groups based on what they need to make a balanced class. They won’t be able to tell you where you are on the wait list because they don’t know.
Consider putting a deposit in to reserve your place in the freshman class at another college where you’ve been accepted. You’ll take a risk of not going to any college if you put all of your eggs in the wait list basket and then don’t get accepted off the list. You are likely to lose your deposit at the at the other college if you do come off the wait list and don’t go where you paid your deposit, but that might be a risk worth taking.
My nephew just received news he didn’t get into his first choice college. (I say that’s their loss!) Is it because he isn’t smart enough or didn’t get great test scores? Nope. It’s a matter of competition to get in, what that college is looking for, and how well he presented himself and his accomplishments. And the last item is the only one in his (and your) control.
How do you deal with denial letters (which is what we call them in admissions because “rejection letter” sounds too harsh)? Here are some suggestions I have:
Read the letter thoroughly to see what it says.
Mope for 12-24 hours, but no longer. (I did this. Everyone was extra nice to me for one day then I had to get over it.)
Celebrate the acceptance letters again and think about how smart those colleges are to accept you and how much those other colleges are missing.
Have a chocolate bar.
Reflect on what you might have done differently (if anything) to get into your first choice college. Did you work as hard as you could have in classes or did you just coast through school? Did you spend time writing an essay that really talked about what you would bring to the campus? What was your work ethic?
Build on what you learned during your reflection time. Reflection time is not idle time thinking “what if.” It’s time for you to learn how to take something that didn’t work for you and make it better the next time. For example: Let’s say you are a smart person but you didn’t work as hard as you could have studying. It was easy to get a B so that’s what you got – though hard work would have given you an A grade. (Personal experience talking here.) You reflect and realize you could have been far more competitive in the college admissions process had you put in the effort in high school. Now you have the opportunity in college to work harder, and get better grades. And what will that lead to? Better internship opportunities, job offers during and after college, and I’d bet you’d have more confidence the better you did in classes. You’d probably have more faculty contacts who could write you letters of recommendation for graduate school if that was your goal.
Realize that you can only control some things. You can control how hard you work and the choices you make. You can control how you react to the denial letter. You can’t control how college’s make decisions or how much competition there was for admission to the colleges where you applied.
Make plans to visit the colleges you were accepted to. If you go in with the attitude that you have made good decisions about all the schools you applied to, and that you have good options on where to attend, be happy and get ready for an amazing experience at college.
Good luck to you in making decisions about where to attend college! There are many options out there that will suit you. Starting at community college and transferring to your dream school is one idea among many others that will get you to your Bachelors degree. You can get there and have a fulfilling experience on the way.