Last updated on June 13th, 2018 by our Product Team
Here’s what it means to be waitlisted from graduate school: you are a qualified candidate, but there are more qualified applicants than there are spaces available. There are a number of scenarios that might lead to a waitlisted application. Maybe your personal essay and test scores were solid, but you don’t have a lot of other experience. Or perhaps you have had great performance at high-level internships, but your GRE scores were average. Or, perhaps there was just a surge of interest in the program and you were edged out by a small margin.
Though it may feel like it, waitlists don’t exist to make you nuts. Selection committees need to make sure their slots are filled with the best candidates. Every student who receives acceptance into a program has several decisions to make. Some students choose to defer for a year. Others simply never enroll in any program. Will they attend another school? A waitlist gives the school a chance to fill an empty space if an admitted student responds that he or she will not matriculate.
Waitlists have other uses to the selection committee, too. They’re a way to make sure an incoming class is diverse with respect to experience, gender, race, and age. Different programs 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.
Waitlists also come into play for potential graduate students with regard to financial aid. You should consider whether you are at any kind of disadvantage with financial aid and acceptance deadlines, because these should play a role in your decision. For example, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re on the waitlist for your dream program, but you’ve been accepted to and have a financial aid offer from another program with a fast approaching deadline. You may be required to respond to your third or fourth choice program before you know, for sure, about the dream program. It happens, and it’s unfortunate. Pull out the scale (or pad of paper) and weigh your pros and cons. Find the deal-makers and deal-breakers of each program. Draw up a list and evaluate it alongside your goals and finances.
Your might feel a sense of anxiety during this period, but don't let yourself get too worked up over being waitlisted. Try your best to stay organized and on top of other deadlines. Ultimately, you cannot wait forever for a decision from the selection committee; there is a finite amount of time. At the end of the day, being on a waitlist is the admissions equivalen to limbo - and it's hard to reside in this position. Rest assured that you've put forth a qualified and convincing application and don't drive yourself up a wall as you wait for the selection committee to get back to you. The final decision is out of your hands, and it will come eventually.