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.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

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

The best way to handle it is to relax and think of what can be done from this point forward. There is no point in looking back and regretting something you didn't do, could have done better or forgot to do. Those things are in the past now and you need to move forward. If you still would really like to go to the school you got deferred or waitlisted to, then make sure the college knows that their school is on the top of your list. Deferred is a bit different then waitlisted because at least you have "another shot" as you get re-evaluated with the regular decision students. Waitlisted means that you have maybe been deferred already and you did not get in regular decision. Once deferred, you should ask them what you can do to enhance your application. Most of the time it's getting a new SAT/ACT score, writing another essay or submitting another letter of recommendation. If waitlisted, you first need to make sure your name stays on the waitlist. You need to write back to them and tell them that you would like to stay on the waitlist. Over half a waitlist sometimes will go away because those students don't ask to stay on it. Then it is just a matter of waiting to see when you may get a response from them that you have been accepted off the waitlist. Sending them an additional letter and final grades (if they were good) may help but make sure you remind them once a week that you want to stay on it.

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.

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

Carol Morris
Regional Director of Admissions Southern Methodist University

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

Even though it hurts not to be admitted to a school you like, remember that they deferred or wait listed you because they felt you would be a good addition to their community, if only they had room! If this is a school you truly want to attend, let them know it! Send a letter emphasizing your continued strong interest, and if you absolutely intend to show up in August if they admit you, tell them that, too. Meanwhile, keep your grades up, and if you suspect that test scores were part of the reason you didn't get in at first, consider re-taking them to give yourself a chance to look a bit more competitive. Finally, be patient. Wait lists can linger into the summer, and sometimes the students who are still hanging on at the end (most eventually drop off and commit emotionally to other schools) are ones who end up with a place when the school needs to fill the last few places in their class.

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.

Kathleen Harrington
Owner New Jersey College Consulting

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

If you receive word from a college that you have been waitlisted or deferred, you should continue to correspond with the school to show your genuine interest in attending. In addition to emailing admissions explaining your continued desire to attend and to update the school on your academic/extracurricular progress, you should also pick up the phone and contact admissions personally. If an interview is offered by local alumni or by admissions themselves, plan on scheduling time to sit down and articulate all that you could contribute to the college campus while completing your undergraduate studies. Many students take a WL or DF as a rejection and could not be more inaccurate about either status. Keep in mind, the admissions team would love to accept all students who want to attend their prestigious institution however, that is not a reality. Think of it this way, a rejection letter is the end of the road while a WL or DF letter is a continued journey towards a possible acceptance. Be sure to continue to show genuine interest in the school and continue to do well in your academic studies and extracurricular activities.

Chris Powers
College Counselor and Philosophy Teacher Powers College Counseling

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

The best to handle a waitlist or deferral is to consider it a maybe. You have to let them know you are still interested. Following up with a school with new awards, new accomplishments, or a new grades can be really helpful.

Pam Ohriner

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

Showing continued interest in the school is crucial if you are hoping to be admitted from the waitlist or if you have been deferred. If visiting the campus, remember to sign in with the Admissions Office. Write a letter to the Admissions Office or the Admissions Counselor you have been assigned to expressing your excitement of being waitlisted or deferred and your continued interest in the school. If it is your number choice, make sure to state that if accepted you will definitely attend. Placing a call to the Admissions Office is also acceptable. However, you don't want to be a pest. In the letter you should state your updated academic and extracurricular information including any new test scores. Remember to say why that college is a good fit for you. If you have updated official records, you can include them. Sending in one additional recommendation from a senior class teacher would be acceptable. It is best to keep the letter to one page. I would continue to make contact about once a month stating your continued interest in the college. Remember though, admittance from a waitlist or after being deferred is never guaranteed and so it is imperative to deposit at a school you have already been accepted at to guarantee that you have a spot in the freshman class.