What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

Admissions Decisions

Our counselors answered:

What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

This is a huge area in my region of the country where so many high caliber students are deferred and waitlisted. I try to prepare students and families for this possibility upfront. When a student really wants to attend a school, and this happens, he or she should carefully compose a letter to the director of admissions and rep expressing interest in the college and a very strong desire to attend if admitted. During the deferral or waitlist period, the student should continue to be diligent with studies and activities about which he or she is passionate, communicating significant developments with the admissions office. At the same time, the student has to be careful not to overwhelm the rep with submissions or information. Numbers will show that it can be very hard to be accepted once deferred or waitlisted, so the student should have a ready backup plan and not take any rejection personally.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Move On!

If you get waitlisted or deferred, try to move on with your life! Sure -- you can let the school know that you are still interested (if you are), but other than that -- try to look at your other options rather than dwelling on your waitlist or deferred status. For many schools, the number of waitlisted students often EXCEEDS the total number of freshmen spots! Isn't that incredible? In addition, despite the sometimes 1000s of students on a waitlist, a school will only end up admitting a few dozen (or sometimes ZERO) students! For your sanity (and your family's sanity), treat your waitlist status as a "soft" no from the school, and move on and examine the other options that you have. If you did a good job of selecting a variety of schools on your college list, you probably have more than a few great options for your college future!

Helen Cella

What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

Continue to show interest( if you are) and focus on some schools that accepted you.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


Let the admissions rep with whom you already have a nice cordial relationship with know that you are disappointed, but still hopeful. Ask them if they have any suggestions on how you can better your chances. Perhaps you have won an award, made an honor roll, performed in a play since you applied? Add those activities to your application by sending the information to your admission rep so they can add it to your file. Write another essay explaining how you would benefit the college by being accepted. Do what you can do, then just cross your fingers. And if you do not clear or get in, don't worry about it. Happily go to your next favorite college. They will be happy to have you.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Handle Disappointing News Proactively

When things don't go as planned, make a new plan. Use the set-back as a time to re-evaluate your goals and find alternate paths for achieving them. If you are prepared to attend the "bad news" school under any circumstances, take steps to express sincere interest in enrolling if space becomes available. Next, take action and apply to additional schools, revisit, or take whatever steps necessary to become comfortable with Plan B.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

While you are waiting for news, f you receive any substantial awards or there is a major improvement in your classwork or other interesting new circumstance, you can request that your guidance counselor contacts the admissions officer responsible for your geographic area. If you are wait listed, you should contact the admissions officer with a polite and enthusiastic note explaining why you believe that particular school is a good match for you and showing how you would positively impact the campus.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

If you are deferred or wait-listed by a school and it is still your top choice there are a few things you can do which might affect your acceptance. Firstly, if your application was early decision, you still have some time to bring your grades up, and you can certainly have your updated transcript sent to the school. Additionally, you should write a letter (coming from you, and not your parents) to the admissions office stating that that school is still your top choice, and if accepted you would attend. You can also use this letter as an opportunity to update the school on what you have been up to for the last couple of months and any accomplishments you have made both in and out of school.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Wait Listed? Deferred? Let Them Know You Remain Interested

Waitlists and deferrals are very different. A deferral says the school needs more time before making a decision. It wants to what its whole applicant pool looks like and it may also want to see another round of grades from the applicant. The waitlist on the other hand may, in fact be a final decision, for if the school’s yield is strong, it may not need to go the waitlist and even when it does the choices it makes are usually based on the needs they must fill in the incoming class. However, in both cases applicants can continue to send updates about any new achievement, new scores, etc. It can never hurt so long as the updates are substantive and respectful. The commitment and desire will be noted and could pay off, but the ball is in the school’s court.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

To wait or not to wait....that is the question

The best way to handle this situation is to move forward with applying or evaluating your second and third choices. All students should have several "foundation" schools where they are at or above the mean 50% of students who were accepted to last year's class, several "expected schools" where they fall in the mid range of accepted students and several "dream schools" where they sit slightly below the mean 50% of accepted students. When choosing a balanced list students should be comfortable attending any of the schools because that is where they very well may end up. If you wind up getting selected for your wait listed school so much the better but if not you may just fall in love with your second or third choice and realize it was the best for you all along! Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Managing Waitlisted or Deferred Notices

The best way is to first of all not feel that something is lacking in you, know that you did not get the "no thanks letter". Now that we feel good we keep working, contiue to apply, I typically recommend that my students choose their top five schools and apply as early as possible (usually early action because it is non-binding) if their number one school is binding then we first make sure they exceed the criteria for getting in and with a concious awareness make the decision to apply to the one school know that if they are not admitted, then we will work hard in December to get the other schools on their lists applied to. So if you apply to 5 and you know by New Years your status and you are waitlisted or deferred for the one you really want simply wait to see if they offer you admission, it is not as if you were not admitted into your other choices (we assume) you have until Spring to confirm acceptance and they will let you know in a reasonable time which way your status changed. If admitted jump for joy if you still want to go, if not jump for joy because you have other options that are still great.