How to survive the waitlist

By Maureen Leming

Applying to a new school is an exciting time for any student. When you’re choosing a high school, the possibilities ahead of you seem endless! The only thing you need to know with certainty is which school can best help you bring them to life. The anticipation can be intense, so it's important to recognize the realities of the school application process. 

While some students get into their dream schools in the first round, many find themselves on a waitlist. But don't worry: being waitlisted isn't the end of the road. By understanding the waitlist process, you can learn the best way to respond and move forward with purpose.

What Does It Mean to Be on the Waitlist?

How do private school waitlists work? To start, please understand that being put on the waitlist isn't the same as being rejected. Waitlisted students meet the qualifications for acceptance into the school, but there are a few other factors to consider.

Private schools like The Hun School of Princeton receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for each upcoming school year. Each application represents a promising young student eager to grow as a part of our family. As a result, schools routinely put some highly qualified students on a waiting list. If an accepted student decides not to attend, a waitlisted student will receive their spot. There are also acceptance opportunities for waitlisted students in later admission rounds. 

If your dream school places you on its waitlist, there's still plenty of hope for admission. Just be patient, analyze the situation, and make a decision that's best for your academic career. 

How Should I Respond to a Waitlist Email?

If you've received an email response to your application that says the school would like to place you on its waitlist, how you respond is in your control. Be honest with yourself and decide if attending this school is worth the wait. 

If you're determined to attend the school that has waitlisted you, it's always a good idea to communicate your interest to the institution. Reach out to the admissions department to thank them and reiterate your interest in the school. This way, you'll get to know the admissions team, and you’ll be top of mind the next time an opportunity arises.

In some cases, you may not be interested in accepting a waitlist offer. Perhaps the school isn't number one on your list, or maybe you're waiting to hear back from other options that interest you. Declining the waitlist offer is another option you have, but be sure to do so with respect for the institution and its staff — you never know when your connection with them may prove useful! Send a thoughtful message thanking them for considering your application, but state that you've decided to pursue other opportunities. 

Whichever course you take, be sure to always respond to the school’s email offering you a spot on the waitlist.

Do People Come Off the Waitlist?

Being placed on your dream school's waitlist isn't the end of your journey. With patience and persistence, there's still a fair chance the school will accept you. Nonetheless, it's essential to consider the numbers. Private school admission rates often reflect those of colleges and universities. An analysis of 160 post-secondary institutions shows 17% of students who accepted waitlist placement qualified in later rounds. 

While The Hun School of Princeton does not fall into the same category as private and public colleges and universities, we review an expansive field of competitive applications from bright young students. When we consider waitlist candidates for admission, we look for those showing diverse interests and talents. These are students whom we know would make the most of the educational opportunity at our institution. 

Like The Hun School, many other private schools hold character as a top priority. For the best chance of acceptance, look for ways to clearly display the tapestry of qualities that make you who you are. This way, you'll show us you can bring a perspective to the table no other applicant can.

Should I Accept a Spot at Another School If I'm Still Waiting to Hear From My First Choice?

Accepting a waitlist spot can be a tricky decision. Should you hold out for your dream school while others are ready to welcome you today? The answer depends on your circumstance. 

In any case, it's best to be realistic about your school choice. Some schools receive thousands of enticing applications for only a few hundred spots, meaning many promising candidates end up on a waitlist. It's admirable and encourageable to set high goals, but it’s important to always have a backup plan. Waitlists do not guarantee acceptance, and even if you don’t get into your first-choice school, you can still go on to have a rewarding high school experience.

It's also important to consider the financial implications of accepting an offer from one school while waiting for a concrete answer from another. In some cases, schools will ask students to make a nonrefundable deposit when they commit to their institution. While this deposit doesn't equate to full tuition, it's still a substantial total that would help pay for your education. But if the deposit is inconsequential, having a solid fallback while you wait for enrollment at your top choice can ease a lot of stress. 

If your top school has placed you on its waitlist, it may also be best to try again next year. Rather than settling for a school that isn't at the top of your list, consider other options. Eighth- or ninth-grade students seeking admission to a private school can repeat a year to strengthen their application. 

Similarly, college applicants can retake their junior year or do a post-graduate year at another school. Hitting refresh is also applicable for student-athletes needing more time to develop their skills — many future National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) commits attend three years of public school and two years of private. 

Remember- The Choice is Yours

Navigating an admissions waitlist can seem complex, but don't let it discourage you. Your future is in your hands, so show prospective schools why you'd make an excellent addition to their student body. If you do everything in your power to be a great candidate, schools will take notice and make you an offer when a spot opens up. Remember, there's no need to settle — you always have opportunities to reapply to your dream school. 

To learn more about our admissions and waitlist process, contact The Hun School of Princeton today!