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College Decision Day Is Coming Up — Here’s What To Do If You’re Still On The Waitlist

College application season is stressful for so many reasons. It can feel like writing personal statements, asking for letters of recommendation, and compiling transcripts nonstop is taking over your entire life. And then once it’s all finally done, waiting for a decision email can feel even more stressful. The excitement of acceptance and the disappointment of rejection are perfectly normal emotions students go through every year — and either way, at least those outcomes come with a sense of closure. But what happens when Decision Day rolls around and everyone’s buzzing about the schools they’ve decided to commit to… but you’re still in waitlist limbo?

Being on a waitlist means that while your application may have met a college’s requirements for acceptance, the school is not able to offer you admission at the time they issue their acceptances and rejections. This could be for a number of reasons: Maybe the school’s allotted number of admission slots for new students is full, or maybe the school needs more information from you (test scores, an interview, etc.) to make a decision. The good news is, being waitlisted means you still have a chance to get accepted. But still, being put on a waitlist can be frustrating, especially if you’re still on it by National College Decision Day, the day most schools across the country require commitments and deposits from students, which generally takes place on May 1 each year. 


college waitlists are so frustrating likeee you like me but you don’t *like* like me #college #waitlist #collegedecision #senioryear

♬ style sped up – <3

Here’s what to do if you’re still waitlisted by College Decision Day.

1. Don’t panic.

This may be easier said than done, but remember, being on a waitlist means you still have the opportunity to get accepted at a later date. Even though it’s stressful, you will figure out a plan, and the waiting won’t last forever.

2. Pick a backup school.

Even if you have your heart set on attending your dream school, having a backup school never hurts. If you still haven’t heard from your first choice school as Decision Day gets closer, committing to your backup school is a safe decision to make sure you have a spot secured at *a* school. Just keep in mind that if you put a deposit down for enrollment at a backup school but end up accepted from the waitlist at your preferred school and choose to go there instead, you will likely lose your deposit for the backup school.

3. Double-check the decision deadline for individual schools.

Although National College Decision Day is typically May 1, this year, many schools have extended their decision deadlines because the 2024-2025 FAFSA caused a bunch of delays. Be sure to check the new commitment deadlines for the schools you’re interested in (specifically your backup school) so you have an accurate timeline for when you need to make a decision. In some cases, these delayed deadlines may give you the wiggle room you need to hear back from the school you’re waitlisted at without needing to commit elsewhere.

4. Write a letter of continued interest.

If you find yourself on a waitlist, you’ll want to show the admissions committee you are still interested in their school in order to stand out against other applicants. Writing a letter of continued interest is a great way to do this. In this letter, you’ll want to include new information that was not included in your original application (an improved GPA, for example), and specific reasons why you are still committed to attending this school. A letter like this will show the admissions committee your dedication and enthusiasm, and could sway their decision.

5. Improve your application, if possible.

Many schools offer you a chance to improve your application if you are put on a waitlist. Look back over your application and make changes if necessary. If your test scores have improved, that’s an important thing to add. You can also include any additional extracurriculars you joined or letters of recommendation you received. A lot can change from when applications were due in the fall, and now is the time to show your improvement.

6. Remember, this setback won’t define your college career.

Getting waitlisted, deferred, or rejected from college isn’t a good feeling, but it’s something many people go through every year — you are not alone. One setback does not define your college career, and even if you don’t attend your No. 1 school,  you can still accomplish amazing things in college and beyond.

Jordyn Stapleton has been a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus since February 2023. She covers a variety of topics in her articles, but is most passionate about writing about mental health and social justice issues. Jordyn graduated from CU Boulder in December 2022 with Bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology with a minor in gender studies and a certificate in public health. Jordyn was involved in Her Campus during college, serving as an Editorial Assistant and later Editor-in-Chief for the CU Boulder chapter. She has also worked as a freelance stringer for the Associated Press. Jordyn is currently taking a gap year and working at a local business in Boulder, with hopes of attending graduate school in fall 2024. Jordyn enjoys reading, bullet journalling, and listening to (preferably Taylor Swift) music in her free time. If she isn’t brainstorming her next article, you can usually find her exploring coffee shops or hiking trails around Boulder with her friends.