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?

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.

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

Jeana Robbins

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

Don't get discouraged. It's important to have a back up plan.

Kathryn March
Educational and Career Consultant Kathryn March, M.S., CEP

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

If you are deferred or waitlisted at the college of your choice, you must continue to demonstrate interest in that school. If you are deferred that means you will be considered in a later admission round. In the meantime, you should submit any evidence of academic, extracurricular or personal success that may not have been submitted with your original application. You should also contact the admission office and thank them for informing you that you have been deferred and for considering your application a second time. If you are waitlisted, you will be asked if you would like to remain on the waitlist. If this school is still your top choice then, obviously, the answer will be yes. You should then make contact with the admission office and, if possible, the admission representative for your geographic area, and reiterate your interest in the school and confirm that it is your first choice. Additionally, submit any other evidence of achievement or success, including current grades, an additional recommendation letter, or honors awarded. A follow-up phone call asking if they have received the materials and if there is any additional information you can provide would be appropriate. In the meantime, you should also continue learning about your other school options and think about how you could best thrive in another college, even if it hasn't been your very first choice.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

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

First, contact the admissions office to see if you can learn where your application fell short. Address those issues in a letter, expressing your continued interest in the institution. If they offer interviews and you didn't have one yet, by all means try to schedule an appointment. Quite possibly it is your transcript that is a concern; all the more reason to not slack off senior year and definitely send along your grades as soon as they are available. Whatever you do, don't badger the admissions office, don't stalk them on facebook, remind yourself that everything happens for a reason and this is why you applied to other schools. Good luck!

Renee Boone
The College Advisor

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

Re-evaluate your choices. Given responses from other colleges, should this deferred or wait-listed college remain on your list? If not, reply to the college with a brief note of thanks, declining the offer. If you do want to keep the college on your list, reply with a brief statement describing why this college is your top choice (or among your top choices). Give any new (new, not rehashed!) information that is important since the filing of your application and thank the review committee for their continued consideration.

Kris Hintz
Founder Position U 4 College LLC

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

A deferral or a wait list notification is now a long shot option. It is best to emotionally de-invest and move on to Plan B.