U.S. College Admissions: Waitlisted or Deferred? Now what?

After all the tedious work of putting together an application and laboring over the perfect essay, waiting for an answer can seem to take forever. When the letter arrives to you, the outcome may or may not be very clear or straightforward. A clear outcome says that you are either accepted or rejected by the university whereas an unclear outcome says that your application is ‘waitlisted’ or ‘deferred’.

The difference between the waitlist and a deferral is small but important to be aware of in case you wound up with a letter from universities with one of those two answers.

The Waitlist

  • If the response that you receive in your letter from your desired college says that your application is waitlisted, then this means that you qualify for the admission but you’re not their first priority.
  • Other students are given a higher priority and if any of those students don’t take admission in this college, then their seat will be given to you.
  • It’s not the best news you can hear from the college you want to go to, but it means that there’s certainly a chance you might just wind up getting in. The admissions committee may or may not admit students from the waitlist.
  • If you are placed on a waitlist, you can find out if the school has taken students from their wait list in the past and if so, how many students they admitted from the waitlist.

Questions to ask:

  • How many students have been on the waitlist in the past?
  • How many were offered admission?
  • Where are you ranked on the list?
  • What types of housing and financial aid may be available if you get in?

In some cases, your chances of eventually getting in are very good while at some other colleges, waitlisted applicants are almost never admitted.

  • The colleges that maintain waitlists are either highly selective colleges or those with low yield rates (low numbers of accepted applicants that actually choose to enroll).

A Deferral

  • Receiving a deferral from a college means that the admissions office hasn’t made any decision about you, except that they haven’t outright denied your acceptance.
  • Deferrals from acceptance are mostly relevant to students who applied to a college through Early Action or Early Decision.
  • If you weren’t denied or accepted, your application has been deferred into the regular admissions group and you will then compete with those applications of regular admission group.
  • This may be frustrating, but also has an advantage. If you are accepted into the college/university under regular decision, you are not obligated to attend as you would have been if you were accepted under an Early Decision plan. So that’s a plus.
  • The college might ask for more information about you which includes your school grades, letter of recommendation, etc. This is usually the case when you have applied under regular admission process. If this happens, then try your best to collect the required documents send it to the college as soon as possible.

Remember that if you are waitlisted or deferred, the wisest decision for you is to assume that your chances of getting accepted into that college are not so great and hence instead of waiting for the final call from that college, start applying to other colleges by sending your application to them, so that at least you have backup in case you don’t get admission in that college.

Of course you should do everything that you can and put in all your efforts to get that college admission letter you want. Write a letter to the school and make them realize that you’re definitely going to attend the college if you get an admission. Also make sure you’ve submitted everything you were supposed to, including your financial aid paperwork.

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