top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Silbernagel

On The Wait List – Now What?

Long college waitlist

Ah, the dreaded “wait list.” What does it actually mean?

It’s like showing up to a party and your best friend – well, the person you THOUGHT was your best friend – spends the whole time talking to someone else.

Hopefully, you’ve got some other “friends” – you have other college acceptances, and you didn’t hang all of your hopes on this particular one.

What does being on a college’s wait list mean?

If you’ve been invited to be on a college’s wait list, it means they like you! You meet their criteria, but they just don’t have enough room in their class. So they need to see who accepts their admission offers to see how much space they have.

In prior years, the deposit deadline has been May 1, but that date has shifted recently.

Are wait lists ranked?

No. No matter what anyone tells you, there’s no such thing as being #1 or #3 on the wait list. If the college needs more male students, they’re going to dip into that list and find one. If they need someone from Idaho, that’s who they’ll select. You get the point. They’re basically putting you on hold, and hand-selecting exactly the students they need to fill their class exactly the way they want.

Just like in the regular admission round, this part is not about who has the highest grades or test scores. It’s about who the college needs to fulfill their institutional priorities. We know that is frustrating.

Why do colleges wait list so many students?

Wait lists are enrollment tools for colleges; they use them to control their numbers. It’s their way of not going OVER the number of students for whom they have capacity in their dorms and in their classrooms. Too few students is a problem for the budget; too many students is a problem for the dorms, the classrooms and the professors!

A reminder: YOU SHOULD accept an offer from a college that has admitted you, by their enrollment deadline. You should not wait to see if you are admitted off of any wait lists.

For additional information about what to do when you’re wait listed, check out this previous post!


Do you have questions about college admissions? Let's talk.


Get timely, relevant info about college admissions delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter -- Touchstone Tips. Click here to subscribe. Or follow me on Facebook for breaking college admission news updates.


bottom of page