There are the colleges that admit you and the colleges that reject you… and then there are the schools that deign to do either. We’ve searched the web and turned up some helpful advice for students who find themselves in that miserable limbo known as waitlist-land:

  • Make sure you stay on the waitlist. Some schools, Johns Hopkins included, require you to update your online profile indicating that you want to remain on the waitlist. Others Be sure to opt in.
  • If you’re seriously into a school that’s waitlisted you, consider sending along some extra info to be added to your file. Have you won any debate competitions, state championships, or math awards since you officially sent in your application materials? If so — and if it’s significant enough that it might impress someone — send along an updated resume.
  • Better yet, send a sincere (and non-pathetic) letter of interest. You’ll want to state clearly and concisely why this particular school is right for you (and vice versa), and what makes you a good candidate for acceptance. Be as specific as possible — why is going to this particular school so important to you? If it’s your first choice and if you’ll definitely attend if admitted, be sure to say so.
  • But don’t desperately send along anything and everything. As the admissions representatives at Hopkins Insider advise, “if you choose to submit updates to your file, it is important that you make sure that they will contribute in a substantive way or provide new information.” Don’t inundate the office with meaningless or repetitive materials; you’ll just get on their nerves.
  • Hold out hope. Over the past five years, Johns Hopkins has admitted varying numbers of students who were initially waitlisted (20, 30, 0, 40, and 80, respectively). Larger schools may admit hundreds of anxious students from their waitlists.
  • But don’t obsess. Ultimately, the decision is out of your hands. Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions, Christoph Guttentag, likens putting together a freshman class to putting the final touches on a sculpture. It’s all about nuances at this point. “The student can’t know, ‘Gee, did all the violinists decide to turn us down?’ ” says Guttentag. “They can’t affect this very much at this point.”
  • Consider the financial cost of remaining on a waitlist. Most schools require a decision — and a deposit — by May 1, but many don’t finalize their waitlist admits until later in the month. If you get a last-minute “YES” from your dream school, you’ll lose the money you promised to your second-choice school.