Ivy League Admission Tips: What to Do When Waitlisted

For many college applicants, spring is the culmination of months or years of hard work. This is when they find out if they will be attending their top-choice school in the fall. However, thousands of applicants find themselves on the waitlists for their favorite schools, which confuses and frustrates them. While some waitlisted students hold out hope for late admission, others opt for the reliability of a second- or third-choice school that accepted them.

If you find yourself on a college waitlist, don’t give up hope! Keep reading for tips on what to do to improve your chances of admission.

How Do Colleges Use Waitlists?

Schools often use waitlists to meet enrollment goals, review applicants in further detail, or replace students who retracted their acceptance. Ivy League admission statistics show that some colleges accept most applicants on their waitlists, while others accept very few or none of their waitlisted applicants.

For example, Purdue accepted 1,542 of the 3,378 students on its waitlist in 2019. In contrast, Stanford admitted eight of its waitlisted students that year, and it admitted only 30 the previous year. Knowing how your target school typically uses its waitlist may help you decide whether to wait or move on to another school.

Keep in mind that being waitlisted does not mean that you have failed as a student—the admissions committee probably liked you, but there may have been many other students who submitted stronger applications. You will likely never find out why you were waitlisted.

How to Improve Your Chances of College Admission

Remember that you can decide whether to remain on the waitlist or not. If you are no longer interested in the school, request to have your name removed from the waitlist. On the other hand, if you are serious about pursuing acceptance, you should actively demonstrate an interest in the school.

Ivy League admission, especially from a waitlist, requires persistence, attention to detail, and creativity. Most students simply wait at this stage, so this is your opportunity to stand out.

At this point, you should email or write a letter to your regional admissions counselor. Express your continued desire to attend their college and explain your reasons. Be sure to update them on any honors, awards, achievements, improved grades, or job promotions you have achieved since submitting your application. Ask your high school to send in a transcript with your current grades, and see if one of your teachers will write you a recommendation letter discussing your attributes and explaining why the college should accept you.

Don’t Overdo It

Be careful not to pester the admissions office by calling them every day or sending them a stream of emails, and do not mention everything you have done since applying. Further, name-dropping or sending recommendations from prominent individuals is not advised.

Instead, aim to make an excellent second impression, presenting your information in an impactful and concise manner. Describe your most important recent accomplishments in one email to your admissions counselor. Write down your questions in a list so that you can ask them during a single phone call to the admissions office.

Create a Back-Up Plan

Last, make sure you have a back-up plan. Regardless of how many students a college accepts from the waitlist, there will always be students left on it. It’s also important to note that colleges sometimes make waitlist decisions as late as early fall, but deposit deadlines for most schools are around May 1.

Sending a deposit to your second-choice school will ensure that you still have a college to attend if you aren’t accepted from the waitlist. However, you will lose the deposit if you are removed from the waitlist and enroll at your first-choice school. If you weren’t accepted into any other colleges, you could still send in more applications. Some schools have later application deadlines. Other alternatives include taking a gap year or enrolling in a community college and then taking another shot at applying to your preferred school.

There Is Always Hope!

Waiting is hard, and being waitlisted can make you feel hopeless, but there are several things you can do to improve your chances of acceptance. Follow these Ivy League admission tips, and keep a positive attitude. Most importantly, make the most of any outcome. Even if you aren’t accepted into your preferred school, you can still pursue the career you want. There is always hope.