Waitlist or Deferred: What Do They Mean?

There are four answers that your student can receive from the admissions committee: accepted, rejected, deferred or waitlisted.

There are four answers that your student can receive from the admissions committee: accepted, rejected, deferred or waitlisted.

College acceptance letters are on their way out – some students may have already received them. There are four answers that your student can receive from the admissions committee: accepted, rejected, deferred or waitlisted. The first two are pretty easy to decipher, however the last two are a little more complicated. Receiving a deferred answer means your student has neither been accepted nor rejected but remains under consideration until all applications have come in.

If your student is deferred, they may not know how to react. Some may not even know what it means, while others may feel insulted that they are being made to wait. Either way, you should assure your student that this is good news because their application is still under consideration and they are in no way rejected at this time. Deferrals typically fall into two categories.

  • You applied under the Early Action or Early Decision plan and have been pushed back into the regular pool. This may be frustrating, but it’s an advantage. If you are accepted into the college or university under regular decision, you are not obligated to attend as you would have been if you were accepted under an Early Decision plan (an Early Action is non-binding to begin with). You may feel free to consider offers from other schools.
  • You have applied under a regular decision or rolling admission and the college or university would like to have more information in order to make a decision about your application. In most every case, a college or university would like to see more grades from the senior year or new test scores. Since the admissions committee is still making up its mind, deferred students should try submitting new grades and test scores or calling to express their sincere interest in the school. These actions could propel them closer to admission.

Unlike being deferred, being put on a waitlist means the college has finished reviewing your file and made a decision to put you on a waiting list for admission. It basically means you’ve been placed in a “holding pattern” of sorts and are their back up option. Waitlists are safety nets for colleges, allowing them to ensure that they have enough students to fill all of their vacancies, but it puts students in a spot where they may need to make some tough decisions.

The admissions committee may or may not admit students from the waitlist. Unlike a deferral situation, new information does not usual change a waitlist decision. If you’ve been placed on a waitlist, you can usually find out if the school has gone to their waitlist in the past and, if so, how many students they admitted from the waitlist. In some cases, your chances of eventually getting in are very good; at other colleges, waitlisted applicants are almost never admitted.

If your student finds him or herself in this situation, it’s a good idea to make sure they have a backup school to go to. A student should not pin their hopes on a waitlisted college. If they have been accepted to their backup schools, they should make plans to send enrollment forms and put down a deposit. If a student finds out later that they’ve gotten into their first choice, they can change their plans, but they shouldn’t put themself in a position of having nowhere to go at all.

Remember, if you’ve been waitlisted or deferred, you have not been denied admission. You’ve simply been asked to wait a little longer, pending an ultimate decision. Also, resist the urge to flood the admissions department with phone calls or emails. Doing this can have an adverse effect on your changes of admissions. The best thing to do is to wait, see what the final decision will be, and in the meantime, make sure to have a backup plan.

Westface College Planning can help you navigate the college planning process from start to finish. To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Tulane Public Relations

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