The big moment is finally here – decision release day. After all of your hard work, you will finally know whether or not you have been admitted. For most candidates, this is indeed the case, and you will have a definitive answer. However, a small percentage of candidates will be deferred or placed on the wait list. Here are some strategies that can help you understand how to get off the wait list and into the college, business school or medical school of your choice.

               Follow the instructions given to you by each school.

Admissions officers are extremely busy this time of year, and have created thoughtful wait list and deferral protocols. Please follow their guidelines – trust me, the schools will thank you for this. At at minimum, indicate that you still wish to remain an active candidate through whatever channel the school dictates. You should also submit additional material, such as another essay or an updated resume, if requested, and update the school on big changes, such as awards, new test scores or promotions.

Don’t visit if they ask you not to. It will not make you look super motivated to show up and demand to speak to an admissions officer. You will seem inappropriately aggressive and like you can’t follow instructions, which will hurt your candidacy.

Reexamine your application.

As hard as it may be to take a step back and revisit your application, I urge you to do so. Enlist a friend or an admissions consultant to help – as objective resources, they can point out areas to improve, including possibly retaking tests or restating your goals.

Understand the process.

It is very difficult to quantify your odds of admission. Wait list admissions depend on multiple factors, including how many people accept their offers of admission, and demographics. Schools can use the wait list to round out their classes, so if relatively few women are enrolling, for example, then they can go to the wait list for qualified women to admit. The timing is also unpredictable, with some schools offering seats in the class a few weeks or even days before the start of the term.

Being deferred or wait listed is a long process, and to the extent possible, I suggest that you take the appropriate steps and then put it out of your mind. The bottom line is that you are still in contention, and you can take some solace in the knowledge that you are in an admissible range for your desired school.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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