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?

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.

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.

Eric Chancy
School Counselor Apex High School - 9-12

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

Ramp it up! Kick your grades into high gear, and get prepped for another standardized test, depending on what the school has told you it wants to see. After all, your grades might be fine for admission, but the SAT or ACT just isn't impressing admissions, and the reverse could also be true. It doesn't hurt for you to be proactive and contact the school, asking if there is some specific information you can provide that will be helpful in rendering their decision. Hint, Hint: Whatever you give them needs to be highly skewed in your favor!!!

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

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

Be realistic. The odds of getting accepted from a waitlist or deferral are not high for most colleges. So please, please fall in love with a a college that accepted you. You will have so many great choices. If you do really want to try to get into the waitlisted or deferred college, you can follow my tips---update college of your interest, ask a senior year teacher to send in a letter of recommendation, ask your counselor to call, go visit the campus again, and send in any great paper or project you completed. If you do these things, then you can never regret if you do or don't ultimately get accepted. Every student I know finds happiness at a college that really wants him or her.