The Silver Lining of the Waitlist

Posted by Neal Schwartz on May 08, 2021

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We could say that the word “wait” is the word of the year: waiting for the end of the lockdown, waiting for vaccines, waiting for the world to open again. It’s been a very long wait. 

And for some, there’s still more waiting to be had. 

This year, college planning has been completely taken over by the pandemic. Those who thought they had their plans figured out often had to change them very quickly in response to the rapidly changing restrictions. With stressed finances, the monotony of distance learning and a developing desire to stay close to home, many anxious high school students and parents have had to return to square one.

However, we’ve learned that in the context of the pandemic, those who are the most adaptable will end up succeeding. For students, that means that the waitlist will take on a whole new meaning.

The waitlist is used at colleges and universities to signify solid students that could be a good fit, but are basically the “second choice” to students that seem to be a better fit. But for a number of reasons, accepted students can choose to not attend, which means that spot will open up to a student on the waitlist, who could end up being a very good, or even better fit than that original student. 

For very competitive schools, it might be harder for a waitlisted student to end up being accepted. However, the pandemic is changing this phenomenon. With a general rise in student and parent uncertainty this year due to COVID-19, applications have risen and there might have been a focus on more safety schools to ensure acceptance. That means that waitlists are being saturated with students. 

But which students will make it off the waitlist? Those that eventually come off the waitlists are primarily those that can afford to pay. So these students will have a clear advantage. In addition, since it seems that students are generally choosing to stay closer to home, state schools will have more room to accept out-of-state students in order to meet their quotas. 

This is a trend that has been affecting nearly all institutions, as admissions statistics are impacted by the pandemic. So whereas before being waitlisted might not have given a student a high chance of admittance, there are even more factors out there that will be favorable for these students, even for competitive schools. 

Remember, what’s important for colleges and universities is to fill their seats. With students backing out of acceptances because of financial strains or fears of being far from home, that leaves more room for the waitlist to fill those seats.

A more significant factor this year is the fact that more students have added more schools to their lists to increase their chances. This overall increase in applications by others has effectively reduced their chances of being accepted at top tier schools. But this creates another dynamic; after hearing stories about peer students not getting into their top choice school, some students may "settle" for a school that they would not have considered previously. In so doing, the student may not have the emotional strength to linger on to wait lists at multiple schools (which can open up those slots for others that are still hanging on). All of these unprecedented factors and scenarios add to a college admission situation that is nearly impossible to forecast. But this doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

This year, being waitlisted is not necessarily negative. Though there’s still no guarantee, the odds may be in your favor slightly more. The key is patience and a positive attitude. 

Due to the pandemic, there are so many more factors to consider in the college process. For help finding the perfect college plan, give us a call to schedule a free consultation today!

Best Regards,

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Neal Schwartz, Owner

College Planning of Westchester


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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, college counseling, college freshman, high school senior, college search, college application, college admit rates, high school graduation, high school grades, summer before college, college partying, GPA, waitlist


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