7 months ago
Admissions Advice

CollegeVine's Guide to Getting Off the Waitlist

If you’ve been waitlisted, you may be wondering what that means, what your chances are, and what you should do next. Here’s our guide to getting off the waitlist!

Note: Due to increased application numbers at top schools, acceptance rates were lower this year. It's unclear how yield rates will be impacted, however, if at all. Unlike last year, we expect fewer students to defer their admissions due to virtual learning. There may be more or less movement on the waitlist depending on the school, but our advice hasn’t changed.


If a student is waitlisted, it usually means that a school feels the student is a good fit, but the school is constrained by class sizes.

Keep in mind, however, that some schools use waitlist offers as “soft rejections.” The waitlist offer is more of a “courtesy” and they have no intention of admitting you.

Unfortunately, most schools won’t tell you whether you’re waitlisted as a courtesy, or waitlisted “for real.” If you’d still like to attend the school, it’s best to proceed as if the waitlist is a real opportunity to get in.


Some schools, like Cornell, are transparent about their waitlist statistics (they state that ~2,500 students accept a spot on their waitlist, and they’ve accepted anywhere from 61-168 people off the waitlist). https://admissions.cornell.edu/about-wait-list.

Most schools, however, are very opaque about their waitlist process. You will likely be unable to find waitlist data. You can sometimes find information in old Common Data Sets, but most schools keep their “waiting list” data blank. Here’s an example from Grinnell’s 2016-2017 CDS: http://web.grinnell.edu/institutionalresearch/webdocs/GC_CDS_1617.pdf. Of course, things may have changed significantly since then.

Since waitlist statistics are often opaque, you need to understand that this waitlist offer may not pan out. You should make plans as if you won’t be accepted and commit to another college you’d be happy at.

People DO get off waitlists, so this is not to be all doom and gloom, but we want to keep your expectations realistic and ensure you have another plan.


1. Accept the waitlist offer ASAP.

2. Figure out what the school would like to see from waitlisted applicants.

Some schools want to see additional materials, like a letter of continued interest with updates since your application. Others may not want to see anything at all. Some schools have a specific page with instructions, like Colby: https://www.colby.edu/admission/apply/waitlist-faq/. Please do your research before contacting the admissions office.

3. Write a waitlist letter (if your school wants one).

Try to send one as soon as you can, ideally within a week or two of being waitlisted.

We have an example letter in this post, plus tips on what to include and who to send it to: https://blog.collegevine.com/deferred-or-waitlisted-tips-for-writing-a-letter-of-continued-interest/

I know that getting a waitlist offer can be really frustrating (some people may consider it worse emotionally than a hard rejection). Be sure to keep taking care of yourselves and doing your best to make the most of your senior year.

I hope this is helpful! Please let us know if you have any questions and let us know how you’re feeling about your waitlist offers.

You may find these resources helpful:





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7 months ago

What are the reasons some colleges have a courtesy waitlist?

🎤7 months ago

There are two main reasons:

1. If you’re a legacy, a waitlist offer is less likely to offend your legacy connection than a straight-out rejection. They want that connection to continue donating to the school.

2. The other potential reason is that your application was relatively strong, but there just wasn’t space to admit you. Some colleges may extend a waitlist offer as a way to recognize your achievements, but they do this to thousands of students (the Ivies are notorious for this).


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