Getting put on a waitlist feels strange. You put so much effort into your application, all of this pressure and expectation builds up, and after all of that, you're told you still have to wait. If you've been placed a waitlist, you might be wondering, “What’s next?”
Every college has its own policy, so be sure to check in with colleges you're waiting on. It's perfectly acceptable to call and ask how the waitlist is ordered (if at all) and managed, and to ask what you can do to increase your chances of admission. You might also want to read the waitlist offer letter carefully, as colleges will sometimes include helpful advice in the letter itself. Some colleges also provide advice for waitlisted students on their admissions office website or blog. It’s worth checking what resources are provided by the college that waitlisted you.
Some schools have students arranged numerically, while others have students grouped in tiers. Others have no ranking system at all: if they need to go to their waitlist, they review whoever is on it at the time and go from there.
Regardless of how the waitlist is structured, if you want the best shot at being admitted, be sure to follow-up appropriately with the college(s) you're interested in. In most cases, this means officially accepting the waitlist offer, and sending an email or letter to your regional admissions counselor letting them know you’re still interested. Beyond that, policies vary widely. Some colleges will allow waitlisted students to visit or have an interview. Other colleges discourage waitlisted students from visiting, and don’t allow interviews. Before planning anything, or arranging a visit, be sure to call (or email) and ask what’s appropriate.
Few colleges are able to make any movement on their waitlists before May 1, the Universal Reply Date – so patience is key. And remember that you have to submit an enrollment deposit by May 1, as well. With that in mind, once you have accepted the waitlist offer, and followed up with your admissions counselor, it’s best to focus on the schools to which you’ve been admitted.