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Rebecca Joseph Headshot

Don't Wait to Try to Get Off a College Waitlist

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First of all, congratulations for making it this far in the college admissions process.

You will most likely have many good colleges options already, but if you really want to go to a college that waitlisted you, follow as many of these 10 tips as possible.

1. Be happy with another college to which you got accepted. Because if these tips don't work, you can and will find happiness at another school. Many, many students do and never look back. In the meantime, you must accept another college by the May 1 Student Intent to Register deadline (SIR). Where will you go to school next fall right now, should be your primary goal.

2. Make sure you accept the waitlist invitation. It is no longer assumed you will accept so send in your waitlist acceptance ASAP. Some colleges will send you a form to submit, while others will have you sign into their admissions portal. Follow their directions.

3. Respect the psychology of the admissions timeline. Colleges have one month until the May 1 SIR to court the students they have already accepted. They are not thinking about anything else. Yet they need waitlists to draw upon in May and June when they know whether they have room in their freshmen classes. So do not contact the admissions office of the waitlisted school in early to mid-April, but get materials ready and make sure you meet all deadlines.

Even if colleges don't require any additional info, try to get them new information when the time is right -- towards the middle to end of the month of April. Once kids accept or don't accept, they will go into waitlist consideration mode to fill outstanding spaces-late April to late summer. That will happen this year for sure at many colleges as more kids than ever applied to multiple colleges. When colleges do notify you, they will only give you 24-48 hours to respond, so you must be prepared to move quickly and lose your deposit at your other accepted college.

4. Write a letter or email to the Admissions Committee. Find the right admissions officer with whom to communicate. Do not restate all that you said earlier in your application, but share what is new since you applied-senior year grades and major academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Commit to going there if you get off and share new reasons why the college is a great match for you. You can even mention where else you got in if these schools are peers or close matches to the waitlisted school.

5. Ask a senior-year teacher, who has not already written you a letter to this school, to write you a letter of recommendation. This letter should really emphasize your academic talents this year in that class and why you will thrive at that college.

6. Get an updated letter of recommendation from your guidance counselor or even have your counselor contact the school personally. This contact can help remind the college of why you are still a powerful candidate.

7. Contact your alumni interviewer -- if you think you had a good interview. Thank the interviewer again and then ask for any advice about moving from waitlist to admissions.

8. If you can, visit the institution one more time. This is the most delicate part, because you cannot show up unannounced, and you cannot come across as a college stalker. Remember, April is for admitted students. So if you visit, try to go in May or June. Use April to visit the colleges that accepted you. More importantly, read each college's requests for waitlisted students. If a college, like the University of Virginia, details its expectations, then follow them. If possible, contact anyone in the admissions office whom you have already met in person or via email.

9. Do not ask people who do not have major contacts with school to contact the college. Do not have anyone other than school teachers and officials write letters. The only other exception would be someone for whom you did a major project this year...volunteer leader, youth group...only someone who can attest to new work this year and who knows you really, really well.

10. Please find happiness in your current college choices. There are so many great colleges that want you now. Discover what makes them great colleges for you. Realize that the waitlisted colleges may never even go to their waitlists, as colleges keep them for many strategic reasons.

Thanks to UVA for confirming many of the ideas included in this post.