The College Search: What If I'm Put On A Wait List?

David Murphy says being wait-listed can be a good thing, but you should make other plans in case things don't work out.

May 12, 2010 7:30:34 AM PDT
There are three types of decisions admissions officers can make: they can accept a prospective student, deny them, or put them on a wait list, which is kind of like "acceptance purgatory".

Candidates on the wait-list are neither accepted, nor denied, but must await the decisions of others ahead of them before knowing whether there's room to add them onto the roll. Wait-listed students who eventually earn admission are often notified in June, but I've heard of some cases that have dragged on through much of the summer, which makes for a lot of stress and uncertainty.

Being on a wait-list can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. On the positive side, if it's a school you really like, being wait-listed keeps the door to your dreams open. On the negative side, it confuses the process and prolongs that moment when you can finally mark an end to the ordeal that is the college search.

If you're wait-listed, the prudent thing to do is to move forward under the assumption that you will not be offered admission by this dream school. Accept another offer, pay the necessary fees and begin taking the steps to secure housing and picking classes. If the dream school contacts you during the summer and offers you admission, you can simply notify the other college that you've been accepted off the wait list at Dream University, and you're no longer planning to attend their school. You will lose whatever deposit and fees you've paid, but it will probably appear nothing worse than a necessary evil if it means you're headed to your favorite campus.

MORE COLLEGE SEARCH ARTICLES: High School Course/Activities, ACT/SAT, How Many Colleges Should I Put On My List?, Compiling A List, Unsolicited Brochures, Campus Visits, Applying For Admission, Types of Applications,, 529 Accounts, Myths About The Cost, Upromise, The Best Way To Pay, College Troubles, College Depression, NCAA Athletics, Athletic Scholarships, The College Search Preface, Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on