The Waiting Game

College Admission Limbo

It’s that tension-filled time of year when high school seniors anxiously walk out to the mailbox to see whether the much-desired “big envelope” is waiting for them with a college admission acceptance, or rather the dreaded “small envelope” that contains a college admission rejection.  What about the “medium-sized envelope” that contains an offer to be placed on a school’s Waiting List and thorough instructions on how to proceed with this process if interested?

As a college planning consultant for the past 8 years, I have noticed that the waiting list has become a much more prevalent admissions tool over the past 3 years.  This recent trend is likely the result of colleges constantly struggling to maintain the balance of admitting enough students to maintain its preferred size, while also not admitting too many students so as to disproportionately enlarge the incoming student population.  For many high school seniors, this development has proven truly torturous.

Being placed on a college’s admission waitlist can often feel like being sent to “college limbo,” where uncertainty and emotion run rampant and can throw a student’s view of their future in upheaval on an almost daily basis.  From early-April until sometimes as late is mid-July, students continue the waiting game to hear whether they might, by chance, have gained admission to their waiting list school.  Until then, students are required to commit to a school where they have been admitted by the national May 1st deadline, in order to secure a spot in case their waitlist options do not come through.

Once placed on the waitlist, the second-lobbying phase begins, when students send follow-up letters, additional letters of recommendation, and re-statements of interest in order to vie for admission off the waitlist.  Students in this position continually walk the tightrope of making sure to show their interest and prove why they deserve admission off the waitlist, and the steep plummet of overdoing their appeal by becoming too emotional or sharing too much unnecessary information.

Suffice it to say, regardless of the size of the envelope awaiting you, the college admissions process brings with it a roller-coaster of emotions.  To survive the peaks and valleys, it is essential to remain grounded and remember that there is always another option.

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