College Wait Lists – Are They Worth the Wait?
Getting a “maybe” and being put on a college wait list from your top school of choice puts you squarely in limbo. As tempting as it may be to call the school every week to see if you’ve been bumped to the “accepted” list, don’t. (Although you can write another letter demonstrating your interest.)
It’s acceptable to call once to ask for the size of the wait list. After all, if you’re one of 2,000 students in the “friend zone” at a school that only accepts 4,500 students total, it might be time to move on to your second choice. That might sound extreme, but consider what happened at Dartmouth College in spring 2017.
According to a story on National Public Radio, 2,021 applicants were put on the wait list and none were eventually accepted. Considering that the school only enrolls about 4,300 students, it’s not that surprising.
That’s not to say you should automatically jump ship if you’re wait-listed at a school you’ve wanted to attend since you were 12. But it’s worth considering your second-choice school if you’re eager to get the process rolling in terms of preparing for college. After all, choosing a college sooner rather than later allows you to start researching your financial aid options, choosing a dorm and picking out your preferences for first-year classes. It’s also worth noting, though, that many colleges are depleted of financial aid by the time any students on the wait list are chosen for acceptance. Can you afford to pay full price for your dream school?
If you’re absolutely obsessed with getting into the school that wait-listed you, consider paying a deposit to your second choice. Yes, you’ll lose that money if you get into your first-choice school, but the peace of mind you’ll get will provide some insurance that you’ll be able to attend college in the fall if you never move from the wait list to “accepted.”
Before you start getting nervous that you’re destined for a wait list, consider that, according to the National Association of College Admission Counseling, only about 40% of colleges even used them in 2017.
One way to get a better idea of your odds is by researching the institution’s wait list history. This includes how many applicants were offered to be put on the wait list, how many applicants agreed to be put on the wait list, and how many applicants were eventually accepted from the wait list.
Don’t let a wait list stress you out and hold you hostage. Yes, there’s a chance you may get into the school, but do some homework to get a better idea of what your chances might be. And don’t be so quick to rule out your second choice. It could end up being the best school for you in the long run, and once you make a decision, the better you can relax during your senior year of high school!