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WAITLISTED ….THE THIN ENVELOPE THAT IS NOT A DENIALIn addition to acceptance and denial letters, colleges throw in a curve ball by sending ‘waitlisted’ letters. Many a student has been surprised that the ‘thin” envelope was not a notice of denial, but rather an offer to be placed on the college’s waitlist.

What is it?

First and foremost, the waitlist is made up of qualified students who are placed there because there is not enough room in the freshman class to accommodate them. Although it is true that those who were accepted may have been more qualified, the bigger reality is that there are only so many beds, so many professors, so many classrooms, etc.

Why is it?

The colleges have an enrollment target that they need to attain for physical and fiscal stability. Colleges can never be sure how many students will actually accept their offer to enroll. Students on the waitlist can be offered enrollment at a later date if the projected target is not met.

What obligations do the colleges have?

The colleges are under no obligation to accept anyone from the list and they do not have to tell you why you were placed on the list. Some colleges rank the list, but many do not. Most colleges start reviewing the waitlist as soon as they receive notice of who has accepted their offer – usually the middle of May. Although there is no deadline when they have to notify you, most colleges try to make final decisions by the end of June.

What do you do about it?

First, congratulate yourself that if the college had been able to accept more students you would have been accepted.

Second, deal with reality and decide which college you will accept from among those who have accepted you. This means sending in a deposit that you will most likely forfeit if you decide to go elsewhere.

Third, if you are wait-listed at a college you truly want to attend then here is what you have to do:

1. Send in the return card immediately. This secures your spot on the list.
2. Get prepared to do some extra work.
* Ask questions about the policy of the college. For example, how long is the list, how are names selected, when might you hear, are housing choices and financial aid packages altered if you are accepted off the waitlist, etc. (They will probably not tell you where you are on the list.)

o You (not your parent, aunt or uncle) should call the admission officer (ask to speak to the Oregon rep.) reaffirming that you want to remain on the list and that you would attend if accepted.
o Follow up the call with a letter that impresses the admission committee enough to take a second look at you. This letter should emphasize why you want desperately to go this college and why they should accept you.
o In addition to the above, the letter should update information on your grades (excellent spring semester grades are a great asset), awards, job experiences or extracurricular activities that would enhance your application. Be sure you document your information. A letter from a teacher, guidance counselor, or alumnus could help – not your parents. This is not a time to be shy.
o If you have not interviewed or visited the college, try to do so and schedule an interview to present some interesting things you have been doing, to reinforce your enthusiasm to attend, and to positively underscore your strengths.

3. You must be willing to wait – maybe into the summer.

Be forewarned: chances of being taken off the waitlist are slim. It all depends on how many students accept the college’s offer. Do not let the waitlist get you down, but rather concentrate on looking forward to attending the college to which you have sent your deposit. I know this all sounds like a lot of work, stress and money, but if this is your dream school it may well be worth it.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants