Advising Students Admitted from the Waitlist

After several weeks of waiting nervously for a response from their top choice colleges, some of your students were told, “the selection committee is unable to make an offer of admission at this time but would like to offer you a place on our wait list.” Receiving a spot on the waitlist means that the student’s application was read favorably by the admissions office and they didn’t want to let go of the student just yet. With enrollment trends in flux this year, some colleges will still be seeking students to join their campus community.

If your student really loves the college where they have already committed, encourage them to embrace that opportunity! There is no benefit to directing energy at a college that wait-listed them if the college where they accepted the offer fully meets their academic, financial, and social needs. The next step should be to celebrate and focus on preparing for the fall!

If the college offering a spot on the waitlist is your student’s top choice OR they have some uncertainty about the offer they have accepted, the possibility of another “yes” may be compelling. Some students may be tempted to pursue a waitlist opportunity disingenuously “just to see” if they are ever admitted, but this is unfair to the college and to other waitlisted students. It is important for students to sincerely consider their intentions before responding to a waitlist offer.

Your student must make some important decisions about their college plans with incomplete information. Here are 4 important steps for students to complete when considering a waitlist offer.

1. Follow the precise directions outlined in the decision letter

If your student decides to accept a waitlist offer, they must actively and affirmatively accept that spot to have their application considered in the future. Many decision letters include a link or online reply form to complete by a specific date to remain in consideration for admission. If the admissions office’s instructions to accept the waitlist offer are not completed by the due date, the offer may no longer be valid.

2. Express continued interest in the school

After accepting a spot on the waitlist, students may want to submit an update or letter of continued interest (LOCI) to your admissions representative or applicant portal. The letter should reiterate why your student remains enthusiastic about hopefully attending that college. Potential topics to cover include:

  • Brief gratitude for continued consideration
  • Well-researched details why this college has the academic, social, or other experiences they desire
  • Intent to enroll if offered admission

A letter of continued interest is optional, but when admissions offices consider which students to admit from the waitlist (if any), likelihood to accept the offer and effort to demonstrate interest could be factors that differentiate waitlisted candidates. Colleges will only admit students from the waitlist when there is space in the incoming class once the students they originally admitted respond to their offers. That means, admissions offices may prioritize waitlisted students who appear particularly interested and invested in their offer. Remind students to continue checking the email address used to apply, so they are prepared if the admissions office reaches out.

3. Weigh your options carefully

If admitted from the waitlist after May 1, students will need to consider the admissions and financial aid offer in comparison to the college plans they already made. The admissions office will communicate how much time is available to weigh their offer of admission - and it could be as little as 24 hours. This can be very stressful for students and families who must consider a new opportunity with limited time for additional research. Lingering questions for current students, staff, or faculty should be asked right away to receive a response within the time frame available. Students who choose to accept the offer will likely need to submit the enrollment reply form and deposit online in the college’s applicant portal.

4. Withdraw from the institution where you originally enrolled

After committing to this new offer, students must notify the college where they previously accepted an offer that they wish to cancel their enrollment. A simple email to the admissions office stating that the student’s plans have changed and they no longer intend to enroll should come from the email address on file with the student’s full name and date of birth. Enrollment deposits are generally non-refundable, so students shouldn’t expect any previously paid fees to be returned.

Even though colleges wait to admit some students until they can confirm space is available, they try to avoid stringing students along far into the summer. Starting in May, colleges will gradually release applicants from the waitlist until the admissions cycle is closed in July. At that point, waitlisted students will no longer be considered for entry during the upcoming academic term. While this may be disappointing, it means students can confidently move forward with their existing college plans and begin preparing for their upcoming college experience!