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What Should You Do If You Are Waitlisted?

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Updated: April 10, 2023
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“We are writing to inform you that you are waitlisted.” When an applicant gets such news, it can become a real tragedy. But whether it means that you’ve lost your last chance? 

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining. So, you should calm down and develop a working strategy to increase your chances of getting off the waitlist. We prepared a detailed guide to answer all your questions and share effective tips on how to act in this situation.

Here, you will find:

  1. What does it mean to be waitlisted?
  2. Working strategies that can boost your chances for a successful application.
  3. Letter of continued interest. What is it, and how does it work for you?
  4. What are the chances of getting off the waitlist?

What Does Being Waitlisted Mean?

Usually, the applicants can receive one of these answers: accepted, rejected, or waitlisted. No doubt, the last decision of the admissions committee keeps the students in suspense till the end of the admission process. But the good news is that you still have a chance to get a highly anticipated “yes” from a dream university.

To be waitlisted means that the university reviewed the application and decided to put the applicant on the waiting list. Thus, you still have chances for approval. But of course, everything depends on the grad school you chose for admission. As a rule, you will know the final decision by May 1. Still, it can be delayed until the summer.

There are some issues you should consider if you are waitlisted:

  • As is mentioned, being waitlisted is not the same as being rejected, but you should think of a backup plan;
  • Do not hope to get into the only one school; think about depositing to another university; think about depositing to another university;
  • You should weigh up your chances for success; research how many waitlisted students received offers in the chosen grad school.

Are Being Waitlisted and Deferred the Same Things?

Very often, applicants suppose that being waitlisted and deferred are the same things. Apart from the fact that both are not the final rejection, there is a difference between them.

In most cases, the college is not finished reviewing the file and decides to defer the decision after the second look. Additionally, the candidate will be considered not on an Early Decision but a Regular Round basis. Finally, the admission committee will probably require additional information to re-examine your application file.

How to Raise Your Chances When You Are Waitlisted?

Receiving a letter that you are waitlisted is not a reason to give up. So far, the admission committee appreciated your application, but they are not sure about the final decision. That’s why we prepared several strategies to apply for persuading the grad school that you are the fitting candidate.

Think critically about whether you want to attend this school

If you are waitlisted, it’s the right moment to decide if you are still interested in the chosen university. For instance, you were accepted to another school, which is preferable. This decision is crucial because the admission committee will wait for your response and want to know whether you are ready to wait until the final decision.

Accept or decline a position on the waiting list

There are two options for the applicant: “to accept or not to accept” a position on the waitlist. The graduate school or college often asks you to respond via the website or to write an email confirming your readiness to be waitlisted.

Suppose you are not sure about your decision to apply for this graduate program. In that case, it is better to decline a position and give a chance to the applicant who is really interested in this university. But if you still have a strong interest in a chosen school, follow the instructions provided by the admission committee.

Act to increase your chances to get off the waitlist

After deciding to accept the position on the waiting list, you need not just wait but act. There are several options for you to increase your chances to get off the waitlist.

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Write a letter of continued interest

This letter can be really useful if the applicant knows the working tips on how to write it effectively. We will talk more about this letter a little bit later.

Improve your grades

One more working strategy is to improve your grades and show the admission committee that you are a person that can handle difficult tasks and improve constantly. Furthermore, you can mention this fact in the letter of intent.

Deposit to another university

Also, you should be flexible. If you critically assess your chances to get off the waitlist and see that you will probably fail to be accepted, it’s better to try another strategy. Think carefully about other graduate schools that fit your intentions and send the deposit to another institution. In this case, you will have a backup plan.

What Is a Letter of Continued Interest and Will It Help?

A letter of continued strategy can boost your chances of changing the committee’s decision about your candidacy. Being waitlisted means that you have potential, so you need to add some strong arguments to persuade them in it entirely. Usually, this letter should include extra information that will work for the applicant to compete with others.

Let’s focus more on what is worthy of mentioning in the letter of continued interest:

What to Include What to Avoid
  • You can express gratitude for giving you one more chance for reviewing an application;
  • Highlight that you are still interested in the chosen graduate school;
  • Focus on your strengths;
  • Add some information that can change the decision of the committee (updated achievements).
  • Do not write about your disappointment because of the committee’s decision;
  • Avoid including the same information about your achievements or strengths that were mentioned in the application;
  • Read carefully the instructions provided by the committee provided after the waitlisting; if the college asks you not to send the letter of continued interest, follow this requirement.


One more important thing is to remember that your letter is not for mentioning the same reasons for accepting you. Instead, you should provide an update about your progress and accomplishments that you gained after the original application.

To Whom Should I Send My Letter?

The applicant should address a letter right to the person who sent a waitlist letter. In most cases, candidates get contact information with the announcement that they are waitlisted. But in case you do not know it, search for the name and email address on the university’s website.

Writing “to whom it may concern” at the beginning of the letter can spoil the overall impression and be perceived as unprofessional and cold.

Useful Tips

The main aim of the letter of continued interest is to confirm that you still have an intention to apply for a chosen graduate program. In addition, it is a chance to highlight the qualities and strengths that make you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

You can use these helpful tips to write an effective letter of intent:

  1. Begin your letter with a professional greeting. Do not forget to address the institution or the person to whom you are writing;
  2. The next step is to introduce yourself. Mention who you are and the reason why you write this letter;
  3. In the body of the letter, focus on the relevant achievements, awards, qualifications—all that can confirm your advantage over other candidates. But, as is mentioned above, do not repeat the same data from your application essay;
  4. Ask for a reply. You should show that you are interested in this university and looking forward to the feedback from the admission committee. Thus, make sure that you mentioned your contact details;
  5. Do not forget to finish your letter with a signature. Also, you can restate your intention at the end of the letter.
  6. Finally, proofread everything carefully before sending it. Ensure that there are no mistakes or irrelevant information. One of the working strategies is to read the letter aloud. This way, you will have an opportunity to estimate it as a reader.

After everything is finished, send your letter and be patient.

How Many Students Do Schools Accept of the Waitlist?

While thinking about whether to accept or decline a position on the waiting list, many experts recommend researching the college waitlist statistics. It is necessary to consider that everything depends on the graduate school you are applying for.

Some of the universities often accept some percentage of waitlisted applicants. But in some grad schools, you will have almost zero chances. Here are the latest statistics from several universities:

  • MIT: 0 of 460;
  • Stanford University: 259 of 850;
  • Harvard: 0 students were approved;
  • Berkeley: 1,651 of 8,753;
  • Princeton University: 1 of 902;
  • Cornell University: 147 of 4,948 waitlisted applicants were admitted;

This list shows that some applicants can really get a second chance. Still, it is better to have a backup plan, depositing to another graduate school. That’s why you need to choose carefully and always search for relevant information about the college or university waitlist acceptance statistics.

Key Takeaway

Now you know enough about waitlists to start acting. The main recommendation is to avoid panic. Even if you have fewer chances, everything remains to be seen. In any case, our EssayEdge experts are always ready to give you a helping hand.

We wish you all the best!

The waitlist is the biggest fear of any applicant. However, it’s a kind of feedback we all like getting. It’s hard, but this information shouldn’t disappoint you. Quite the opposite, a waitlist is a motivation for you to change the situation as soon as possible. If you fail to do it this year, try again in the next admission cycle. Send your paper to our supplemental essay editing service to avoid the same outcome in the future.

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