Mikayla Jacoby, Writer for Lenses

Students applying to college are expecting to hear either one of two words in response: accepted or rejected. The former is obviously the more preferred of the two; however, there is a gray middle ground between these two terms that applicants sometimes find themselves wading in but not knowing much about– the waitlist. Although slightly uncommon, it is not unheard of for students to be waitlisted, especially for more selective schools or schools with a high number of applicants. So what does the waitlist mean, and what should one do should they find themselves placed on one?

To begin, a waitlist is a list of applicants who have met the application requirements to get into the school, but the number of open slots for entry has been already filled. Thus, people who find their names on a waitlist may still get into a school if more open slots for enrollment open up as students decline admission. However, according to the College Board, schools will not notify waitlisted students of any open enrollment slots until after the May 1st National Decision Day deadline, putting waitlisted students in a tough spot if considering other schools. That raises the question: when should one stay on the waitlist, and when should one abandon ship for another school’s offer?

Sometimes leaving the school in question behind is the best idea. According to the U.S. News and World Report, one helpful question to ask admission counselors is how large the waitlist pool may be. If the number is large, it may be in one’s best interest to enroll in a different school as a wide pool of applicants lessen one’s single chances of getting in. Additionally, students must consider that while waiting for a response from a school that has waitlisted them, the May 1st decision deadline may surpass them. This will automatically cancel any chances of enrolling in another college, as it will be too late to save a spot in another school. In the end, the school that waitlisted the student may have no room for them at all. The College Board notes that when considering factors like room and board deadlines and financial aid deadlines, accepting a runner-up school’s offer may be the wiser choice.

However, if the school that one waitlisted for is the “top pick” school, it may be in one’s favor to try and hang in there. If this is the case, there are actions that can be taken to enhance the chances of being selected and accepted off the waitlist. While the U.S. News and World Report warns against repetitive calls and update requests to the college to avoid soiling one’s positive impression made on the school, it is encouraged that one do more to look more desirable for the college to pick for admission. Students who make sure to keep second semester grades high, retake standardized tests, update the college on any new activities and achievements as well as visit and show continuous heightened interest in the school can elevate the odds of being selected off the list.

 If waitlisted, the most important thing is to not panic. Being on the waitlist is not an inherently bad thing, but rather a time for increased performance and dedication, patience and reflection on what the school has to offer as a whole.