What NOT to Do After Being Waitlisted

Inside the Admissions Office

What NOT to Do After Being Waitlisted

The following is part of an ongoing series, "Inside the Admissions Office," by mentor Evan Cudworth, a college admissions specialist with experience in the admissions office of the University of Chicago.

If you find yourself waitlisted at one of your top programs, you’re inevitably going to be flooded with advice and anecdotes about what other students have done to get off the waitlist. Among the sea of stories, you're bound to hear some fascinating ones, such as “Make a music video!” or “Bake them a cake with your name on it!” These strategies might sound compelling, but they backfire MUCH more than they succeed. And, unfortunately, students don't often hear about the times when these strategies backfire, making them liable to copy students that might have actually ruined their chances in an attempt to be edgy.

Here's the heart of my advice: The most successful students convey their eagerness to attend a program without sounding desperate. I’ve written another article detailing successful strategies (which you can find under the title What to Do After Being Waitlisted), but first here are a few tips on what else NOT to do as a waitlisted student:

1. Don’t cry. You are not a failure! Educational institutions will enlighten you, not define you. It might feel like you are under a lot of pressure to attend a certain school, but if you focus your emotional energies on the positive accomplishments you’ve made so far, and will continue to make in the future, you will find happiness (at the school most appropriate for you).

2. Don’t give up. This is not a final decision. A waitlist offer simply means that the admissions officers or professors believe that you are intelligent and deserving of attending the program, but there are not enough seats available at this time. Maybe they are waiting to see if they can secure additional funding, or perhaps they need to wait to see how many students from a certain geographical location accept their offer of admission. Admissions criteria are more complicated than just student stats and activities. Remember, there are things you can do! And I enumerate them in the second part of this special series within a series: What to Do After Being Waitlisted.

3. Don’t book a flight to visit. Emotions are running high and this might be your first impulse: “If only they can meet me face to face and see how much I care, they’ll have no choice but to admit me!” Quite the opposite.

Showing up on campus unannounced is not only rude, but can be detrimental to your candidacy. It will be a waste of an expensive trip, and even the best-case scenario will lead to an awkward conversation with an admissions office or officer (if you even get that far).

4. Don’t send a gift. In the US and UK, gift-giving between professionals and strangers is not as common as in some international cultures. Students are discouraged from sending gifts of any kind. If you are waitlisted and you want to make a good impression, sending cookies or other hometown goodies will not help you get accepted.