What does a waitlist offer mean?
If you are waitlisted, it usually means that a school feels you are a good fit but is constrained by class sizes. You will be considered for admission if the school needs additional students for the incoming first-year class. However, remember that some schools use waitlist offers as “soft rejections”, meaning that you are not guaranteed a spot in the incoming class, but you need to wait before receiving a final decision. The case of ‘’courtesy’’ is due to two reasons. Firstly, if you’re a legacy, a waitlist offer is less likely to offend your legacy connection than a straight-out rejection. They want that connection to continue donating to the school. Secondly, your application was relatively strong, but there just was not enough space to admit you. Some colleges may extend a waitlist offer based on how they recognize your achievements, but they do this to thousands of students (especially the Ivy League Colleges). In any case, you can always accept or decline the waitlist offer.
What are the waitlist acceptance criteria and rate?
It is very difficult to estimate how many students will eventually enroll in a school since, on average, 5 to 6 million applications are submitted to the Common Application per year! This is why waitlists exist. Every school has its own waitlist policy, which depends on its ever-changing institutional needs (the institution’s mission, resources, and goals). These needs include the field of study, geographic diversity, yield, and talents. For instance, they have a quota for the number/percentage of mechanical engineering students or of Asian students. It is not only about the number of acceptances but also the representation balance. Therefore, universities view their enrolments literally every minute of every day to meet the desired trends.
A common misconception is that waitlists are ranked. Students are not ordered on the waitlist.
As far as transparency is concerned, some schools, like Cornell, are clear about their waitlist statistics (they state that approximately 2,500 students accept a spot on their waitlist, and they’ve accepted anywhere from 61-168 people off the waitlist). Most schools, however, are very opaque about their waitlist process and there is no data to rely on.
Additionally, even a specific school’s waitlist sizes and acceptance rates vary significantly from year to year. For instance, Stanford went from 10% to 1% in one year. This is why you should not rely on historical data either. Selective schools keep this rate between 1.0% and 3.0%.
You just ought to make plans as if you will not be accepted.
What are the next steps after being waitlisted?
Stay positive: Being waitlisted is not a rejection, and there is still a chance that you could be offered a spot in the incoming class. Keep a positive attitude and don’t let the uncertainty of the situation get you down.
Accept or decline the waitlist offer. Remember it is not obligatory to say yes and that you do not need to submit any deposit to remain on the waitlist. Decide whether you would like to keep your spot and inform the admission committee as soon as possible because there are a lot of other students who have the specific school as their first choice.
Secure your spot at your next choice school: Even if you choose to remain on the waitlist, you should still enroll at your next-choice school, because you cannot predict whether the ‘waitlist plan’ will work or not. Therefore, it is very important to send the next-choice school your non-refundable deposit (which you will lose if you decide to enroll elsewhere) by May 1st.
Stay in touch: Stay in touch with the admissions committee through a Letter of Continued Interest or email. Keep them updated on any new accomplishments or changes. Research what the school wants from waitlisted applicants before sending additional materials. Communication with the committee can prioritize your application.
Write a waitlist letter (if required). Try to send it as soon as you can, ideally within a week or two of being waitlisted.
Explore other options: While you are waiting for a final decision, make sure to explore other college options and keep your options open.
Be patient: Waitlist decisions often take longer than regular admissions decisions, so be patient and don’t expect an immediate response. Generally, admission officers start considering the waitlist between late April and early June.
Waitlisted Letter / LOCI (Letter of Continued Interest)
It is always recommended to write a LOCI (unless the school does not want one). Some colleges may not even turn to their waitlist each year, as they prefer to fill their class through the early and regular decision rounds. If you are unsure whether to write a LOCI, consider whether you will regret not writing one. It may be worth a try. It is also advisable to write a letter if the college requests one and you are still interested.
What to include in your LOCI
- That your GPA has increased since you applied to colleges or universities: A higher GPA demonstrates that you have not contracted senioritis. You’ve done the exact opposite! Before leaving for college, you are working hard to achieve greatness in high school, raise your exam scores, and gain more knowledge.
- New awards/distinctions you’ve received since submitting your college or university application: These are excellent tools for showcasing your extraordinary qualifications.
- A new leadership position in an extra-curricular activity. Be careful here; Do not just mention the club/team/organization in which you had a leading role, but also describe how you worked for its betterment, how you handled diversity among team members, and what skills you finally acquired/expanded.
- That you have fulfilled the prerequisites or guidelines mentioned in your waitlist or letter: the most frequent requirement is a higher exam score (ACT/SAT).
- Refresh the school’s memory on WHY you wish to attend it, referring specifically to its unique characteristics and what you can offer its community.
What to avoid when writing your LOCI
- Do not repeat your personal statement. You can mention new activities, experiences, and skills. They would not like repetitions.
- Do not mention the names of other schools you have been accepted to as it may seem like you are bragging that you have other options.
What is a format of a LOCI?
- Introduce yourself by writing, “Dear [the name of the college admissions officer you are writing to]”. Avoid clichés like “to whom it may concern”
- Express gratitude that the committee considered your application
- Describe how interested you are in the school and why it is your first pick.
- Be appreciative and respectful of the admissions officials’ time by highlighting how you are developing both your profile and your personality to become a more competitive applicant in the regular decision area
Dear Admissions Committee,
I am writing to express my continued interest in attending [University Name] and to thank you for placing me on the waitlist. I believe that [University Name] is the perfect place for me to continue my academic journey and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to secure a place in the incoming class.
Paragraph one: New academic achievements
Paragraph two: New extracurricular accomplishments
I am confident that I would thrive at [University Name] and contribute to the intellectual and cultural diversity of the student body.
As a waitlisted candidate, I understand that there may be limited space available, but I remain hopeful that an opportunity will arise for me to join your prestigious community. I am committed to staying in touch with you and keeping you informed of any updates to my academic record or any other achievements that may strengthen my application.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my application. I appreciate the hard work that you do in shaping the future of the next generation of scholars and leaders, and I remain hopeful that I may one day be a part of that legacy.