May 1 looms large for colleges and prospective students, as National College Decision Day marks the deadline to accept college offers for the incoming Class of 2020. While many students may have their final college decisions locked down, others sit in limbo with an admission decision that can cause more confusion and stress than even a rejection from a top-choice college: a place on the waitlist. For these students deciding to hold out for acceptance from the waitlist of a top choice school or accepting a firm offer from another school isn’t an easy decision to make.
How likely are students to get in from their waitlists? The chances are increasingly slim, as top schools narrow the admissions process year after year, making for an efficient process. For many top schools, the Class of 2018 saw less than 10% of their waitlist admitted, with many top schools accepting less than 5%.
Hopefully by this time, waitlisted students have revisited their research on the colleges where they did gain admission and maybe attended an admitted students weekend or two. Since waitlisted students will need to accept an offer by May 1 regardless of whether or not they chose to stay on the waitlist, it’s important to first focus on the colleges where you did get in so that you can make an informed decision about where to enroll.
What many students don’t realize is that accepting a spot on the waitlist isn’t enough. Writing a waitlist letter, updating the colleges on their activities and life since their first admission essay, goes a long way to showing that a student is still very much interested, even if they are waitlisted. More than that, these essays also give colleges more context for making an informed decision when ranking those students who offered a spot off the waitlist.
That doesn’t mean that a good waitlist letter will rocket a student to the top spot on the waitlist. Waitlist admissions frequently depend on the college’s needs for the incoming class and which students are the most likely to accept a spot if admitted.
Students waiting to hear from a waitlisted school should still accept a spot on their next-choice college and send an enrollment deposit. It’s important to make sure that students ready to go to the school in the fall have a guaranteed spot. In the meantime, be patient. Students that haven’t heard from their waitlisted school by June should call the admissions office to find out if waitlist students are still being considered.