Coping With Being Waitlisted at Your Dream School

While being waitlisted isn’t as devastating as a rejection letter, it can still feel like you have been put in admissions purgatory. Furthermore, being put on hold by your top-choice college can feel like a complete crush.

Although the suspense of dealing with the unimaginable can be hard to bear, there is still hope of getting accepted. A 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling indicated that 43% of colleges reported using the waitlist in the previous year. Of the students who agreed to stay on the waitlist of these schools, 20% got admissions. On the other hand, of the candidates who accepted to be on the waitlist of the most selective schools, only 7% were admitted.

With these statistics in mind, you may need to figure out how much you really want to attend your top-choice college. You should limit your options only if you’re sure you’ll be admitted. Otherwise, you may need to consider the acceptance of other desirable colleges.

Fortunately, with free tools like this college acceptance calculator, you can estimate your acceptance odds to determine where you rank on the list. If your chances of joining your dream college are high, you may have to hang on the waitlist and prepare your best admission tactics.

Here are four ways to cope with being waitlisted at your dream school.

Decide if You Want to Stay on the Waitlist

The first and most crucial step is to decide whether you’re still interested in your top-choice school. If you are indeed interested in joining the college, notify the admissions office and figure out if you’ll need to make a deposit.

However, if you have no intention of staying on the waiting list, don’t hesitate to let the school know as soon as possible. You also need to submit your enrollment to the school you may want to attend. That way, you can keep a spot as you prepare for your next step.

Improve Your Academics and Activities

While it’s easier to slip into senioritis, refuse the urge, and keep up your grades. This is the best time to show off your latest achievements to the admission officers. Remember that improving your academics can increase your odds of getting off the waitlist. If, by any chance, you received any awards, improved your GPA, or started a new project, ensure you present them as proof of your continued motivation and achievement.

Many schools are interested in dedicated students capable of improving themselves and contributing to their college community, so don’t forget about extracurricular activities. Continuous improvement is also a great way to fill any gap in the initial application.

Be Specific

Being put on the waiting list could be one way in which the admission officers test to see if you’re a perfect fit for their college. Use this time to revisit the previous communications with the professors and students. Retrieve all the emails and notes which can help you to express your interest in the college genuinely. Embark on in-depth research on the institution’s new developments and figure out how the college suits your academic and social needs. Once you make an honest opinion, move on, and write a letter to the school. Fill it with details that indicate your continued engagement with the school. 

Be Patient and Don’t Go Overboard

If you’ve been put on your dream college’s waiting list, your achievements, feelings, and thoughts are what will eventually get you off the list. While there are tactics that can improve your acceptance chances into your top-choice college, there are also strategies to throw you in the permanent reject pile. Some of these practices may include bribery, denigrating other applicants, camping out at the admissions office, sending constant emails, questioning the admissions department’s judgment, or letting your parents send a barrage of emails. These dirty tricks will only land you in more trouble, so avoid them as much as possible.


When applying for your dream college, you should try as much as possible to prevent your chances of joining the waiting list. You can achieve this by maintaining high academic grades and meeting application deadlines because a late application can easily land you on the waiting list. If you haven’t submitted your applications, it can help if you researched the average GPAs and ACT/SAT scores of accepted alumni to help estimate your acceptance odds and prepare accordingly.