What To Do If You’re Waitlisted from Graduate School

If you have been waitlisted from graduate school, it means you are qualified for admittance into the graduate program, but the school had more qualified students apply than they had spaces available. Perhaps your application was solid, and met the bar for their average student, but it wasn’t quite stellar enough to edge out other applicants. Or maybe there was a surge in interest and the school needs more time to decide.

Don’t get too upset about being waitlisted. You haven’t been denied admittance yet, and this could be an opportunity to share with the selection committee one of your latest achievements. Be sure to contact the committee or email your graduate school program department head and share any award, honor or prize you may have recently earned. Or take time to let them know about your grades if they’re impressive.

You can also ask the selection committee if you can do anything to better your chances of being admitted. Refresh their minds if this is your first choice and share that you would be happy to provide any additional materials that might help sway their decision. And, in the spirit of self-improvement, ask why you weren’t admitted during the initial round of acceptance.

Waitlists don’t exist to make you nuts. Schools need to make sure their slots are filled. Every student who receives acceptance into a program has various decisions to make: Will they attend the school? Will they attend another school? Will they defer their acceptance and wait a year to attend? A waitlist gives the school a chance to fill in an empty space if a student responds that he or she will not matriculate.

Waitlists are also a way to make sure an incoming class is diverse with respect to gender, race, experience, and age. Schools look at a variety of factors. So if a student who has been granted admission replies that he or she will not attend, the selection committee may very well try to fill that space with a student from the waitlist who has a similar background or experience.

Stay organized during this period. You’ll want to be aware of your other schools’ deadlines so you don’t inadvertently miss one of them. Ultimately, there is a finite amount of time you can wait for a selection committee’s decision. For example, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re still waitlisted for your dream program, but you’ve been accepted into another that has a deadline fast approaching. You may be required to respond to your third or fourth choice program before you know, for sure, about the dream program. It happens. The best course of action is to really spend some time weighing the pros and cons. You may find you have deal makers and deal breakers with regard to your program choices. Draw up a list and evaluate your goals and finances. 

Financial aid also comes into play when you are waitlisted. You should consider whether you are at any kind of disadvantage with financial aid deadlines because it should play a role in your decision.