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If you’re like many college applicants this year, chances are that you’ve landed on a few waitlists. Typically, waitlists start moving once students start sending in their deposits. Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself on some college waitlists:

  • Review all of the colleges to which you’ve been admitted or waitlisted. Which ones can you eliminate because they’re not the best fit for you? Would you choose the waitlisted college over ones that you’ve been accepted to? If that answer is no, you shouldn’t bother accepting the waitlist. Please remember these three things: 1) you can only attend one college, 2) it actually feels good to narrow the options down to a few top contenders, and 3) staying on several waitlists could prevent other students from having a chance at admission. Please don’t stay on waitlists for colleges that you probably wouldn’t actually attend.

  • If you truly do want to stay on a waitlist, you must accept your spot.

  • Colleges really only want to offer spots to students who will actually come, so writing a solid letter of continued interest (LOCI) is super important. Spend time thinking about why this particular college is right for you, and be as specific as possible. Talking to current students can be very helpful as you think about this. What communities would you want to be part of? What organizations would you want to join? Which academic programs spark your interest? Try to explain why. What updates can you provide? Have you recently been named captain of a spring sports team? Have you received any science fair awards? Are you doing anything interesting these days that shows your civic engagement? Three to four pointed sentences that are genuine and heartfelt can have a real impact. Writing a generic letter that doesn’t say much about you and why this school is right for you frankly won’t move the needle much.

  • Think carefully about timing. How long are you willing to wait? Would you be willing to stay on a waitlist until June? How about til July? Are you willing to hear at the end of the summer when it’s close to move-in time? Having a clear idea in your mind of when you want to be settled on where you are actually going to college is important. As time goes by, letting go of colleges where you’re waitlisted can help you get more excited about and invested in the college where you’re headed in the fall. Don’t you want to start thinking about roommates and how you’re going to decorate your dorm room?

  • You can pull up section C2 of the Common Data Set (CDS) for each college (google “Common Data Set + ___ college”) and look at waitlist movement in previous years. The CDS shows the number of applicants offered a space on the waitlist, the number of applicants who chose to stay on the waitlist, and the number of students admitted from the waitlist. Just remember that this has been a crazy year, and previous years’ waitlist numbers may not predict this year’s waitlist activity.

  • And most importantly, trust that you will land at the college that wants you and is meant for you!

I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!

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