How to Get Admitted Off a College Waitlist

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted countless facets of daily life, economic activity, and educational pursuits for most of 2020 and into 2021. Add the already complicated college admission process – including whether students are ultimately accepted, rejected, or placed on a college wait-list – to the list of things made more difficult due to COVID-19.

Given the number of applications that schools received this cycle, we predicted that a much higher number of students would receive news that they have been wait-listed, This year has been an incredibly competitive and unprecedented cycle, and colleges generally have the same number of spots (or even fewer) for freshmen, so the wait-list reflects that.

Universities usually offer applicants wait-list spots during the regular decision round of admission. Wait-listed applicants generally won't hear back about a decision on their admission until after the national May 1 deadline for high school seniors to submit their deposit and secure their spot at a college. Sometimes, they don't find out until soon before the fall semester.

Applicants should also know that college wait-lists are important tools for schools to use in admissions and not necessarily a reflection of the prospective student's application. Being put on the wait-list means a student is a competitive candidate, but colleges are trying to admit well-rounded classes and predict who will ultimately enroll, which may mean prioritizing students based on major choices or a desirable quality they bring to the college.

6 Steps to Get Off a College Waitlist

  • Accept a spot on the wait-list.
  • Express interest again in the school.
  • Submit a deposit to another university.
  • Manage expectations in the admissions process.
  • Be ready to make a decision if admitted.
  • Inform the school where you submitted a deposit.


Applicants who do get the rare admissions offer from a college where they are wait-listed need to be ready to act fast. The clock starts ticking, and colleges want a quick answer – often within 24 to 72 hours. That means families need to be ready for the possibility and discuss in advance what they can afford and other factors in the final college decision.