How to get off a waiting list and get into school

If you were on the waiting list for your dream college, join the club.

The toughest application cycle yet has left more students in limbo than ever before.

In addition to the number of gap-year students who already accounted for up to a quarter of next year’s freshman class, schools were ‘test optional’ for the very first time, meaning students n didn’t need certain SAT or ACT scores in order to apply. This contributed to the increase in the number of applications for fewer places.

The heightened uncertainty due to Covid has also encouraged students to broaden their network, leading to record numbers of applications to many top colleges and historically low acceptance rates as a result.

“It’s almost a perfect storm,” said Hafeez Lakhani, president of New York Lakhani Coaching.

Lower acceptance rates, longer waiting lists

Now students have fewer options and only weeks to determine their next move before National College Decision Day on May 1, the deadline for high school students to choose which college they will attend. (Last year the coronavirus crisis prompted many schools to extend the deadline to June 1.)

At this point, they must pay a non-refundable deposit to secure their place in the school of their choice. And yet, many campuses remain closed to tours and visits, so students must also make these decisions blindly.

And perhaps the biggest problem is that many students have been waitlisted among their top picks.

Applicants on the waitlist have not been outright rejected by a college and have not received a formal offer of admission.

Instead, they may be considered for a seat by September, depending on whether there is enough room for them in the incoming class, among other factors.

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“For colleges, this is a no-loss proposition,” said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm. “The more uncertainty there is about the yield, the longer the waiting list will be.”

Wait lists are an easy way to protect performance – or the percentage of students who choose to enroll after being admitted – which is an important statistic for schools.

Nationally, average freshman achievement at four-year colleges and universities fell to around 30% in the year before the pandemic, from nearly 40% a decade ago, according to the National Association. for College Admission Counseling.

“It’s so much harder for all of us to predict our class sizes,” said Leslie Davidson, vice president of enrollment management at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

Although Beloit has received 3,300 applications for an incoming class with a target size of 260 students – and has already received a record number of deposits at last count – the college could still be affected by waitlist activity at d other places, Davidson said. When a student accepts an off-waitlist offer at another institution, they give up their place elsewhere (and so on).

Colleges with lower acceptance rates place more students on the waitlist and ultimately accept fewer.

Prior to the pandemic, colleges granted places to approximately 20% of candidates on the waiting listaccording to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, but that number drops to just 7% at the most selective colleges.

With far fewer students choosing to defer and many gap year students from last year returning, the percentage will likely be even lower this year, Lakhani said, “I expect the waiting lists are not heavily used”.

There are, however, ways to improve your chances.

How to get off the waitlist and into class

The first thing Seniors who were on the waitlist should do is write a letter of continued interest to college to let them know why they want to attend, experts say.

“Pick a school you would definitely go to and make a very, very clear statement: If I was given the place, I would absolutely take it,” Lakhani advised.

Then provide an update that shows what you might bring to the table. For example, if you have taken courses or completed a research project that has helped to understand why this school is now even better suited.

Schools are waiting to know what is about the given student today that might be different from the same student a year ago.

Eric Greenberg

president of the Greenberg Education Group

“Schools are waiting to hear about the given student today who might be different from the same student a year ago,” Greenberg said.

Think, “How your story has evolved since you applied,” Lakhani said.

Finally, submit another piece of information to help illustrate this new angle, such as an additional letter of recommendation or non-academic testimonial about your character’s backstory, Lakhani said.

Make a backup plan for your backup plan

In the meantime, “plans should move forward as if there were no waiting list,” Greenberg said.

Choose a school from the list of acceptances, based on which is the most suitable in terms of cost, academics, campus life, and other factors.

“This is where it becomes imperative to see schools,” he added. “There seems to be a correlation between how much a person likes a school and how many times they have visited it.”

Also consider the amount of help available. Some financial aid is granted on a first-come, first-served basis, or comes from programs with limited funds. Students who were admitted in the first round tend to have the first dibs on scholarships and other forms of aid.

“Over time, it’s usually more difficult to get financial help if they come off a waiting list,” Greenberg said. “There are fewer funds available at that time.”

Covid has made it more difficult to pay for university studiesso affordability may be the most important consideration, after all.

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