The Waiting Game: What if I'm Wait-Listed?
It's finally arrived--the envelope from your first-choice college. Nervously, you open it. It's not a denial! But it's not an acceptance, either. You've been wait-listed. What do you do now?
Colleges use waiting lists as insurance. Applicants who are qualified for a college but don't make the "cut" may be wait-listed. If enough accepted students enroll for freshman year, the college won't accept anyone from the wait list. If the college ends up with open spaces in the freshman class, it may accept a few or many students from its wait list.
Unfortunately, colleges often can't predict whether they will go to the wait list or how many students from the list they will need. And you may not receive a final acceptance or denial until as late as July.
"There are never any guarantees with wait lists," said John Boshoven, counselor for continuing education at Community High School (MI) and director of college counseling for the Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit.
According to NACAC's 2005-2006 State of College Admission report, roughly one-third of colleges and universities use wait lists. The most "selective" colleges (those that admit fewer than half of their applicants) use wait lists at a much higher rate than those that admit more than half of their applicants. The number of colleges using wait lists has remained steady over the past eight years, but the number of students placed on wait lists has increased. On average, 10 percent of students who apply to institutions that have a wait list are placed on the list.
As a national average, a student's chance of being accepted off a wait list is roughly one in five.
Your Insurance Policy
Because the wait list is so unpredictable, it's not wise to count on moving from the wait list to acceptance.
"Counting on a wait-list entry is like counting on a white Christmas in [North Carolina]," said Shaun McElroy, director of college counseling at Escuela Campo Alegre, The American School in Caracas, Venezuela. "It might happen, but you better not invest in winter gear."
If you're wait-listed at your first choice, your first task is to look at the colleges that did accept you. Carefully compare your options and decide on a second-choice college. If you haven't heard anything from the wait-list college by the May 1 deposit deadline, make a deposit at your second-choice college to insure your spot in its freshman class.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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