Q&A for Waitlisted Applicants

Could you tell me if schools gives applicants time to visit if they are admitted from the waitlist or hold category? Also, when do they make this decision?

Some schools give an option to visit (or at least give you a little time to decide), while others will give you only a short window to accept or decline the offer. The latter is more likely; if you were admitted off the waitlist, you may be told that you have a week (or less) to decide because they need to know whether to offer the position to someone else on the waitlist. In short, I would not bank on having time to set up a formal visit.

In terms of timing, there's no way to predict that, because it all depends on how few or how many people who have already put down deposits decide to withdraw over the course of the summer (either because they themselves have been admitted from waitlists at other schools, their plans change, or they just fail to show up at orientation). That's called the "summer melt." I've known students to be admitted from a waitlist as late as August and even during orientation in September.

My suggestion is to put down the initial deposit at your top choice and then if you are admitted elsewhere and want to make the switch, all you've lost is the deposit. Just be sure you read the fine print on the letter of acceptance and/or letter for the deposit to make sure they aren't asking you to withdraw your applications at other school (in which case, you can't stay on wailtists elsewhere). More on that below.


Say that next month I am admitted from a waitlist at School X. Can I still remain on other waitlists?

Waitlists are very odd, and there's no way to predict if or when you'll be admitted from one of them. Chances are relatively low, in fact, so I don't think you'll be faced with acceptances from more than one waitlist. That said, if you are accepted at School X, you will send in a deposit to secure your spot in the class. If, at some point after that, you are admitted to School Y, the "loss" to you of accepting the later School Y offer is the deposit you have at School X.

Many schools take deposits in stages, and follow-up deposits will typically be larger than the initial deposit. At some point you may be asked to send in your first tuition check (typically before classes start). In that situation, the "loss" to you would increase since you'd have more money invested in School X.

One caveat to this (and it's an important one): read the fine print when you send in admissions deposits to make sure the school isn't saying, "By sending us this $ you are promising to withdraw from all other waitlists." In many cases, if a school is offering you a spot off a waitlist, then they are under the impression that you are committed to that school. That will vary by school, so read the language and/or listen to any communications you have with the schools.


I am on multiple waitlists. I don't want to commit to my genuine number one choice, get rejected, and then not get into to my second choice because I didn't make as strong a declaration of interest or intent to accept Is a declaration of intent binding? If it is unlikely that I would be admitted from more than one waitlist, would it be OK to send a declaration of intent to more than one school?

I understand your issue with writing to one school, getting rejected, and not getting into a second choice. There is no formal policy saying that a letter of continued interest in which you "pledge" to attend is binding. That said, the process requires honesty from everyone—applicants, admissions people, etc. You can certainly write to multiple schools and express "strong" interest in remaining on the waitlist to be admitted (or some other phrasing), but you should definitely not make a "pledge" (or anything that could be construed that way) to more than one school.


I want to send a "pledge" letter to a school that waitlisted me. How do I phrase it? What does pledging mean for me and the school? Can it ever hurt my chances of admission?

A letter of interest (or email) in which you "pledge" to attend a school if admitted from its waitlist is fine. Generally, people say something along the lines of: "If offered a place in the class, I would definitely accept" or "if admitted, I would definitely attend." There is no formulaic answer or phrasing needed.

Pledging won't hurt you. It is used to signal to the school that you will have a positive impact on its yield (the percentage of admitted applicants who accept a school's offer). That is, you're telling the school that if it offers you a spot, you'll help the school's overall yield by definitely accepting the offer. For the school, it's a signal—a message indicating that it will not be wasting an offer (and take a hit to its yield) if it extends one to you from the waitlist.

There is no formal policy saying that a letter of continued interest (or email) in which you pledge to attend is binding. That said, you should definitely not make a pledge (or anything that could be construed that way) to more than one school.


I'm planning a trip to a school where I'm waitlisted. Is this a good idea? If they let me visit, is there anything I need to do?

There's no reason for them to not "let you" visit; in fact, you can visit whenever you'd like. Whether you get to speak to someone in admissions is a different story, but at the very least you can visit and see what's what.

If you get a chance to speak with someone from admissions, make sure to introduce yourself clearly so he/she knows your name. You'll need to show specific (rather than generic) interest in the school and emphasize your fit. You can also use that opportunity to update them on any developments or more recent accomplishments.

School visits can be helpful to you in identifying what you like (and dislike) about a particular place, but don't expect that a visit will cause you to be removed from the waitlist and rewarded with an offer of admission. While you can make an impression on admissions representatives during your visit, there's no guarantee that the school will take anyone from the waitlist.

Still, visits can make an impression about the sincerity of your interest in the school, and they also help you in your own planning. If you haven't visited the school before, it can be hard to decide, on the spot, whether to accept a waitlist offer or not (particularly if a given waitlist school is not your obvious first choice). The more you know about the school before accepting, the better.

As an aside: If you can't visit, it's still a good idea to emphasizefit and update them about any developments in a LOCI (a letter ofcontinued interest, which you should be sending them about once amonth). If you've already included those pieces of information inprevious communications, it's fine simply to say that you're still veryinterested in remaining on the waitlist and thanking them for theircontinued consideration of your application.


Do you have any tips or feedback from your own waitlist experiences? Please share in a comment. You can find more waitlist advice in a previous posting here.


Gregory Henning is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School. After graduating from law school, he clerked for Judge R. Lanier Anderson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and then became an Assistant District Attorney in Boston. As part of the Anna Ivey team, works primarily with law school applicants.