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Why So Many Applicants Were Waitlisted in 2021

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If you received notification that you were waitlisted from several of your top-choice schools, you are in good company. The 2020-21 admissions season was the most competitive we’ve seen in a while. In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, applicants weren’t able to take campus tours; they did not have the privilege of visiting classrooms and residential buildings to help them whittle down their school lists. 

Most applicants also missed the opportunity to take standardized tests due to COVID-19 precautions, which meant admissions committees across the country had fewer data points to analyze when assessing applications. Admissions departments also had to keep in mind that some spots for the Class of 2025 were already filled by 2019-20 applicants who opted to defer admission

All of this resulted in selective colleges reporting some of the lowest acceptance rates on record.

Should I accept my waitlist offer?

If you are still interested in attending the institution to which you were waitlisted, you should accept your offer sooner than later. Most schools ask students to accept the offer by May 1st. If, however, you are no longer interested in attending the school, let admissions know promptly.


What are my odds of getting off the waitlist?

Before COVID-19, colleges offered spots to approximately 20% of waitlisted applicants, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. At the most selective colleges, just 7% of waitlisted applicants receive the congratulatory notification. This year, we’re anticipating those numbers to drop. So, in other words, your odds aren’t great, but as J. Biebs might say, never say never.


When will I find out if I made it off the waitlist?

You can anticipate hearing back about your spot on the waitlist anytime between May and the end of August. Some waitlisted applicants have been offered acceptance mere weeks before the Fall semester begins. The uncertainty that a spot on the waitlist presents can be harrowing. We recommend securing a spot at one of the schools that did offer you admission with a deposit by May 1st, so that you can sleep at night knowing you will be a college student come the Fall, no matter what. 


Is there anything I can do to improve my chances of being offered admission?

Yes, there is something you can do. You can write a Letter of Continued Interest to your top-choice school to reconfirm your interest and let admissions know that if they offer you a spot, you will take it.

Ultimately, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has impacted the entire world so drastically, it’s not surprising that it also affected college admissions. We encourage you to remember that there is no way to know why some applicants are accepted and others are rejected, or waitlisted. There are so many factors that go into the admissions committee’s decision, and the decision you received does not change your intellect or worth. 

We’ll leave you with one of our favorite quotes from the late country singer, Jimmy Dean, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

The acceptance rates for the 2020-21 admissions season were record-breaking.
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