What To Do If You’re Waitlisted?

What to do if you’re waitlisted?  Were you just waitlisted on Ivy Day?  That eagerly anticipated day when all of the Ivy League colleges release their admissions decisions?

It’s a nerve-wracking experience for many high school seniors, as well as their parents.  The culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and aspirations for a amazing future. For some, the results are absolutely FANTASTIC!  For others, disappointing to say the least (p.s. you can always transfer). However, for a few select students, Ivy Day brings even more unexpected and confusing news: being placed on the waitlist.

What in the world to do now???


While it may initially feel like a setback, being waitlisted does NOT mean it’s the end of the road for you and your dream school.  Really.  100%.  Read that sentence one more time:  this is NOT the end.  Every single year, I get so many, many students off the Ivy League waitlist  — UPenn, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth…even Harvard.  If you got waitlisted and have gotten this close to your dream school, know you CAN still get in.

Now, you do need to plan for your new freshman year as if you are going to go somewhere else, and you need to make the best strategic choice possible in terms of which alternative option to choose, but just know there is still hope that the school where you got waitlisted can still let you. in.

So, regroup for a moment and see this for the unique opportunity it actually is: a chance to showcase your continued interest in your dream school and potentially still secure a spot.  It’s all strategy from here on out, so if you find yourself in this situation, here’s what you need to do now:

Waitlisted Tip #1

Call me.  Seriously.  I know good strategy from bad strategy, and right now you need help.  First and foremost though, it is essential to remain POSITIVE and keep things in perspective. Being waitlisted is NOT a rejection; it’s an indication that the admissions committee sees strong potential in your application. If you got waitlisted it means you are competitive at the level of student they’re looking for, but there’s only a certain amount of room in each class, and now they need to see how many people will accept before they know how many more spots they will need to fill.

And you want to be ranked first for one of those spots.

Understand that being waitlisted is a common occurrence at all of the more selective Ivy League colleges where the number of applicants far exceeds the available spots. Take a moment to acknowledge your achievements and the effort you’ve put into your application to get you this far — because they could have rejected you outright yet DIDN’T.  That right there means you actually have what it takes, and now you just need a little push to get you over the edge.


Next, carefully review the communication you received from the admissions office regarding your waitlist status. They may provide specific instructions or deadlines for submitting additional materials or expressing continued interest. Follow these instructions diligently and promptly. Failure to do so could signal to the admissions committee that you’re not genuinely interested in attending their school, potentially diminishing your chances of being admitted!


The most crucial step in demonstrating your continued interest is writing a compelling letter to the admissions office. This letter should express your genuine enthusiasm for the school but more importantly, provide updates on any significant achievements or developments since submitting your application. YOU NEED TO MAKE IT SOUND IMPRESSIVE.

Whether it’s improved academic performance, extracurricular accomplishments, or new insights gained, use this letter as an opportunity to reaffirm why you’re an excellent fit for their institution. Personalize it to reflect your unique experiences and aspirations while remaining brief. I work with student every year to help them tailor their letter and discuss various ideas for content.


Additionally, while waiting for a decision, it’s essential to have a backup plan in place. Explore other college options that align with your academic and personal goals, ensuring you have viable alternatives in case you’re not admitted off the waitlist.

Keep in mind that many exceptional institutions exist outside the Ivy League, and realize that you can always apply to transfer.  With this in mind, where you go to school can help or hurt you, in terms of getting into the Ivy League as a transfer student next year, so I advise you speak to someone knowledgeable in this area and get some good advice before you commit to a school and make your decision if transferring is your new goal.


Use this time to reflect on your priorities and preferences for your college experience. Consider factors such as campus culture, location, size, academic offerings, and financial aid opportunities when evaluating your options. Keep an open mind and approach the decision-making process with flexibility and optimism. Remember that the college you ultimately choose will play a significant role in shaping your future, so it’s essential to make an informed decision that aligns with your values and aspirations.

Meanwhile, continue to stay engaged and involved in activities that showcase your passions and strengths. Whether it’s pursuing meaningful extracurriculars, volunteering in your community, or taking on leadership roles, continue to demonstrate your commitment to personal growth and making a positive impact. Admissions committees value students who are not only academically accomplished but also individuals with a genuine desire to contribute to others around them.


Finally, regardless of the outcome, approach the situation with grace. Being waitlisted does not define your worth or potential, in fact it is actually the opposite!  And if you didn’t get in read my article here (Transferring Into the Ivy League) about how to transfer, even to the same school you just got rejected from and how I help students every year!

Regardless of what happened on Ivy Day though, keep moving forward with determination and confidence, knowing that you have the skills, talents, and resilience to succeed wherever life may take you.


In conclusion, being waitlisted on Ivy Day may initially feel disheartening, but it’s essential to approach the situation with optimism, determination, and resilience. By demonstrating continued interest, exploring alternative options, staying engaged in meaningful activities, and knowing you can either get off the waitlist or seriously try to transfer and take another chance, the journey to higher education is full of twists and turns, but with perseverance and a positive mindset, you can navigate through any challenges that come your way.

Want more help with your letter of continued interest, waitlist strategy, or chances of transferring next year to the Ivy League?  I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer + Harvard graduate.  Contact me today for a free consultation and get into the school of your dreams!  www.IvyCollegeEssay.com