What to Expect if You Were Wait-Listed

Many colleges expect to admit more wait-listed students this year, but that news is bittersweet.

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Double-depositing is frowned upon by colleges because it makes their planning so much more difficult, but it isn't illegal. Massa's message to parents considering double-depositing: Don't do it. "That is unfair to the college, to other students on the wait list, and most of all to your son or daughter." But he and other admissions officers expect that lots of students will change their minds in the coming weeks, which means "there will be a lot more wait-list activity."

That heightened wait-list activity is also likely to last longer than usual. In the past, most wait-list decisions were made within a few weeks before and after May 1, which is the national date by which all students are supposed to choose one college and send a deposit. But this year, Greg Zaiser, head of admissions for Elon University, is bracing for a possible June (and perhaps even July) domino effect: As more students hear from more wait lists, they'll give up spots they reserved, which those colleges will have to fill with other wait listers, who will then open up slots for someone else on another wait list.

Students who hope to get admitted off a college's waiting list are typically advised to send a deposit to some other school as a backup and to tread the fine line between demonstrating enthusiasm for the school that wait-listed them and avoiding being annoying.

Wait-listed students are supposed to have at least a few rights, says NACAC. The counselors' organization says colleges should:

  • Provide information such as the number of other students wait-listed, what services (aid and housing, for example) are available to those admitted off the wait list, and what happened to wait-listed students in the past.
    • Clear their wait lists by August 1.
      • Not require a financial deposit to remain on a wait list.
      • Alison Go contributed to this story.