So you were wait-listed at your dream college. Now what?

So you were wait-listed at your dream college. What now? If it's still your top choice, accept a spot on the wait list. You have to take action, it won't happen automatically. Then write a letter letting the school know that it is your first choice and why. Telling the school you will attend if accepted is important as colleges care about their “yield” and don’t want to waste a bullet. If you don't have a clear choice, you can stay on multiple wait lists and see how it plays out, but you should only play the "if you accept me I will attend" card with one school.

Keep the college updated on any new developments such as grades, awards or achievements. But keep it to meaningful developments, don't overdo it, and keep it short. Admissions officers don't want to read more essays or letters of recommendation.

Recognize that many selective schools end up offering admission to fewer than 10% of the wait list, sometimes closer to 0. Some students don't want to deal with the uncertainty -- especially after the long and nerve-wracking admissions process they've already been through -- so they choose to decline the wait list and go with a sure thing. If you decide the wait list is still for you, do what you can then put that school out of your mind. Focus on choosing from among the acceptances you received. Attend accepted student events. Evaluate financial aid offers. Pick a college, put the deposit down, buy the sweatshirt and assume that’s where you’re going. Get excited about that school as your first choice, don’t look at it as a consolation prize and don’t look over your shoulder. If in May or June you get an acceptance from your wait list school, hooray. If not, you’ve already moved on.

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