Planning for the college waiting list

Students can often be placed on an admissions waiting list for their chosen college or university. But what exactly is a college waiting list? What steps can students take to plan for their future when placed on a college waiting list?

Many high school students have plans to attend a college or university after graduation to pursue a higher education. Some of these students have several colleges on their list of schools they would like to attend. Other students have a life-long dream or a strong desire to attend that one special college to receive their degree and therefore have one school and one school only on their list of potential schools.

When these students apply to the school of their choice and are accepted to their chosen college or university, great! When these students apply to the school of their choice and are not accepted, oh no! But here is a question that many future college applicants have not considered but should: what if they apply to a school and are placed on the waiting list? Being on a college waiting list means the student meets the requirements for admission to the school; however there is currently no room left in the admitting class and therefore, the student is placed on the waiting list.

So what do you do if you’re placed on a wait list? Students have the option of remaining on the waiting list. While on the waiting list, students can let schools know they’re still interested and will still attend if there is an opening for acceptance. Other options consist of writing letters, marketing your skills and other qualities, and staying involved in different activities to move from the waiting list to the admissions acceptance list. Be careful and don’t go overboard with communication or other marketing tactics. In preparation for this possibility, students can ask themselves this planning question: if you’re placed on a waiting list, what can you say or how can you market yourself for admission into the college?

In addition to preparing their marketing skills, there are other things students can do to plan ahead for the potential college waiting list situation. Students can apply to several colleges as a back-up option in case they end up on the waiting list. This may be a challenge for the students who have that life-long dream college or that one special college where they want to attend. In this situation, students should ask themselves: other than your dream school or first option college, what are some colleges you would consider attending? Even if the student plans to stay on the wait list, they can still apply to several colleges to ensure they have the option of attending the other colleges down the road.

Michigan State University Extension knows being in the college waiting list situation can be a challenge. However, by being aware of the waiting list possibility and using these planning questions to help prepare, students can have a plan in place and be ready for action if the challenge occurs.

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