College Waitlists: Are They Worth the Wait?

For some students, college waitlists are absolutely worth pursuing! For other students, don’t waste the time. Statistically, up to 20% of all waitlisted students are offered a spot, though at the highly selective schools that number drops to 7%.

When a student has been deferred from their Early Decision choice, sent a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) and is then waitlisted in the Regular Decision round, that student, if they still feel the school is their perfect-fit, should most definitely work the waitlist process. However, if a student has been waitlisted at a school but accepted somewhere else where they feel they’ll thrive, I say, forgo the waitlist.

Here are some tips on how to turn a Waitlist into an Acceptance:


Some of my CompSci students are seeking a very particular line-up of classes taught by specific university professors with whom they want to study. This “bespoke” education isn’t interchangeable, so I recommend they find a teacher at the school they’d like to attend and write them a personal note soliciting support. Sometimes professors, like sports team coaches, have sway with admissions – or can at least put in a good word.


If you’d attend the school if accepted, tell the admissions dean this information straight-out, especially if you’re not seeking financial aid. Now’s the time to propose marriage: get down on one knee and declare your First-Choice intention. Also share what you’ve achieved since you applied or sent your deferral LOCI. Keep schools updated with examples of how committed a student you are (recent academic achievements or awards) and how you’re an engaged member of your high school community, eager to bring that mojo to their campus. Even if a school doesn’t invite you to provide additional information or write a LOCI, find your regional dean’s name/email address and send a note to them directly. At this point in the process, nothing can work against you.

School Guidance/College Counselor

I’m surprised at how many students don’t ask their on-site counselor for help getting off the waitlist at their top choice. I coach students on how to get the facts and stats: how many students from their class applied to the preferred school both in the ED and RD rounds and how many applied to similar programs/majors as they did? I then support the student while they ask their counselors how many students have been accepted, waitlisted or denied? We then can check Naviance/Scoir or another college admissions management platform that their high school uses to compare historical stats from previous years. Finally, I urge students to meet with their college/guidance counselor to determine if reaching out to the admissions dean at the waitlisted school is a good strategy.

Through my years of both advising students and chatting with admissions officers, I usually can tell when a student has a chance of getting off the waitlist and should wait it out and conversely, when a student should accept another offer and let their spot on that list go.

For more information about College Counseling/Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And Happy Holidays to All!