The wait list dilemma
You have been placed on a wait-list at your top college choice and have made plans to attend another college. You made the required deposit, are preparing for orientation, have been emailing your soon to be roommate(s) and generally getting more excited about college life. Then over the summer you receive an unexpected call from your first choice college offering you admission for the fall. You’re overjoyed and want to immediately accept the offer. But is it the wisest move to accept an admissions offer from a college that has waitlisted you? Not necessarily.
Getting an admissions offer from a college that has placed you on a wait list may sound like a dream come true, but unless you take the time to ask the right questions you may be headed for a nightmare.
You need to weigh the pros and cons of opting to be admitted off a college’s waitlist. Here is a list of questions to ask the college and to discuss with your parents.
1. Does the offer of admissions extend to your chosen major? You may be accepted to the college, but find that your major is a high demand program of study and is closed for the upcoming semester or year. You need to clarify if you will need to wait a semester or a full academic year to be accepted into your major. Are you guaranteed acceptance when the program is re-opened?
2. Is housing available? If you need to live on campus, you will need to ask if on campus housing is available. The later in the summer the college goes to the waitlist, the harder it might be to get on-campus housing or the options for on campus housing may be limited. The same may be true for off-campus housing options. Note that many colleges require incoming freshmen to live on campus and if you are trying to arrange housing in mid to late summer you may end up with living arrangements that are less than optimal. For example, you may end up with 3 or 4 roommates when you would prefer to have just one roommate. The type of dorm that is available may not be what you want. You may want a coed dorm, but all that is available is a single sex dorm, or the dorm is too far from the main area of the campus or is in a noisy area. It is also possible that the college housing is not even on campus. Some colleges lease or own off campus housing to deal with the overflow of resident students. In that situation you will need to find out about transportation to and from campus and the level of onsite security.
3. Is there a financial aid award? If so, compare it to the award that you have received from the college that originally accepted you. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for additional aid. But realize, as the summer progresses, you may not be able to negotiate a better award, as the majority of the funds have been disbursed. What remains are the funds made available by students who decided to attend other colleges. That may not be enough to meet your needs.
4. What about your deposit? If you have accepted an offer at another college, know that any deposit you have made to that college is non-refundable. Can you and your family afford to lose that money and pay another deposit to the new college? If your family has made tuition payments, those will be refunded. You should ask how long the refund process will take.
5. Is it possible to defer admission? If, after you and your parents review all these factors, and decide that is best not to take the offer for the fall, your hopes to attend your first college are not lost forever. Ask if you can defer your enrollment for a semester or two. Deferring your acceptance until the spring semester or the following fall allows you to continue with your fall plans at your back up college and possibly transfer your credits, when you start at your first choice school. Keep in mind that transferring credits can be tricky. Usually, you need a grade of C or better. Stick to basic requirements such as Freshman English, Intro of History, etc. These are general in scope and more easily transferable than technical courses or courses for which the knowledge base is more apt to change.
So ask these important questions, consider the consequences and your options and you will be sure to make the college choice that is right for you.