What to do if you are on a US university waitlist

Guides / USA

Being placed on a waitlist can be very annoying: you’re not in, but you’re also not denied. The reason why US universities use waitlists is something I explain here, but in the current admissions cycle of 2020, the ongoing global uncertainty with the Coronavirus pandemic is seeing more universities hold on to students on their waitlists. So what should you do?

1) Enrol at one of the university options you do have, to make sure you do have somewhere to go. Send your deposit, reply on UCAS, do whatever is needed to make sure you have an option.

2) Look at what the university needs you to do to stay on their waitlist. It may not be an automatic process, and you could have to indicate to them that you want to be on the waitlist. Also, check if the university has a policy about how many waitlists they are happy for you to be on if you have multiple waitlist offers.

3) Research if the university you are waitlisted for is happy to receive more information form you. If they are, then start to work on giving them one email with all this new information, things to include are:

    • Your desire to still attend that university, if a place becomes available. You should be honest about this; there’s no point being on a waitlist if you don’t want to attend that university
    • Explain why this college is your top choice. Go back through your supplemental essay, and try to find more points why you feel this university is the ideal fit for you. Don’t just repeat what you’ve already written, find new or additional reasons.
    • Provide updates on any new achievements since the last communication you had with that university, which may be your application materials. Successes at school, with your extracurricular activities or other relevant information, can help strengthen your chances.

4) If you have made contacts previously with someone at the university, keep in touch with them. You may have met, interviewed with or been in email contact with an admissions officer, coach or professor, so write them a friendly email to thank them for their help and reiterate your interest in the university.

It’s a complicated process to experience, and in typical admissions cycles, not many students will likely be admitted from waitlists. However, in 2020 we are living through new times and we could see a very different situation this year.