Students, more than ever, are applying to ten, fifteen, and even twenty colleges to increase their chances of getting in their choice schools.
But still, it's possible to get accepted into a bunch of colleges, and get waitlisted on the school you really wanted to get into. So what should you, an ambitious high school senior, do if you've been waitlisted?
Consider the Colleges That Admitted You
Choose a favorite college from among those that have admitted you. (if you have struck out altogether, then call your high school's college counselor immediately).
Waitlists are not a sure thing, so it's crucial that you already have a college offer locked in. If you don't, then visit the front-runners of the schools that said yes plus the waitlist school you love. if finances seem to preclude such travel, call the schools that admitted you and ask them to pay for your visit. Be sure to sign in at the admissions offices, gather the necessary facts and feelings, and when you get home, put down a deposit at your favorite of the schools that accepted you. That deposit will be non-refundable, so you must be prepared to eat the fee if you do get in to your waitlist favorite.
Make a Decision and Move Forward
Now that you are certain you will have a college to attend in the fall, you are ready to go forward with your plan. From this point on, it is crucial that you do everything yourself, rather than letting your parents take the lead. (if you are a parent reading this blog, step aside and let your senior use this process to learn to advocate for herself!).
Talk to Your High School's College Counselor
Ask her if she will support you in your effort for your favorite college to choose you for the waitlist. Tell her you will definitely attend that college if you are admitted anytime up to the start of the upcoming academic year.
Discuss with her any academic or extracurricular achievements that you have earned since your application, or anything else you think the admissions committee might want to know. She will use this information, along with her impressions of your maturity, commitment, and attitude, when she speaks on your behalf with the admissions officer at the college you want to attend.
Find Out Who Read Your Application
Find out the name of the person who read your application at your waitlist favorite. If your college counselor cannot answer this question, call the admissions office of the college and ask over the phone. You can simply ask who reads the applications for your high school. All you want is the name, title, and address so you can send a proper letter.
Go buy some nice stationery and write a polite letter to the admissions officer who reads applications from your high school. Tell her that you are thankful for having been considered so strongly; that you are still very interested in attending the college; that you will DEFINITELY attend if admitted anytime up to and including the first day of classes; and that you continue to believe that you are a perfect fit for the college for a various reasons. Add any new information, achievements, or other enhancements to your application, and close with a polite thank you.
Let Your Counselor Know That You Reached Out to the Admissions Officer
Be sure to also re-emphasize your plan with her. Then, provided that your head or principal is accessible and helpful, make an appointment to speak briefly with her. Tell her your plan, and ask for her support. Bring a copy of your application, and go through the reasons why you think you would be a good fit for the college. In other words, tell the head of your high school how to sell you to the college. He or she, too, can advocate for you.
Your plan will now be officially in play!
Here Are Some Tips to Remember:
- Don't try to get in by pulling strings. Unless those strings are really ropes (say, your parents are billionaires), it won't help and will more likely backfire.
- Remind your college counselor and head of school about once a month of your waitlist status, and inform them of any updates on your achievements.
- Send hand-written thank you notes to anyone who helps you, especially your college counselor, head of school, and anyone at the college's admissions office.
- Be persistent. Most people quit. Don't.
- Prepare to fall short. Some colleges don't need to take any names off their waitlists. Remember that there are far more qualified applicants than available spaces, and remind yourself that you already have a great college to attend.
- Be aware that things can change up to September. Colleges do not like empty dorm rooms and will try to fill them if they need to do so.
- Most of all, maintain a positive attitude and use the process to learn how to advocate for yourself.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes!