Still Waiting? :What to do when your Child Lands on

After sorting through brochures, helping tailor the perfect essay, and juggling schedules to attend college nights, and campus visits, you await the answer to the all-important question. Did your senior make the grade for their top choice school? Unfortunately, when the letter of truth arrives it doesn?t offer ?congratulations? or ?regretfully inform.? Your child has been cordially invited to the ?wait list.?

While most parents prepare their child for acceptance or outright rejection, today?s competitive environment includes a wild card. Even honor students with 4.0 GPA?s,1460 SAT scores, numerous activities, and full scholarships from competing universities land on waiting lists. Since students now apply to a laundry list of schools, and many factors influence an applicants? decision it has become difficult for institutions to accurately project who will accept their offer. Admissions Officers rely on wait lists as insurance policies.

Helping your child decide what college to attend isn?t easy. Add a wait list to the mix and the difficult process can become downright confusing. ?Typically, these wait list decisions are made on a March to April time frame.? explains Al Newell, the Dean of enrollment at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA. He advises students to preserve another option for themselves if they are wait listed, ?By May 1, traditionally the national deposit date, wait-listed students should have a deposit at some other place. They should most definitely make sure they have another choice,? Newell advises. ?I would be the first to encourage them to make a deposit elsewhere if they were on my wait-list, because if I put them on that list, I?m telling them there is no guarantee

So, what steps should be taken if faced with a wait list dilemma?

First, assess the situation. According to Jim Bekkering, the Vice President for Admissions at Hope College in Holland, MI, the student and their parents should seriously decide how badly they want to be at that particular college. If this is the school of choice, make certain your student finds the facts.

Encourage them to politely call and ask the admissions office how many students are on the wait list, how many wait-listed students were admitted in the previous two years, and whether the wait list has been put into an order of preference. Also, find out what factors will be taken into account in deciding whom to accept from the list. This should give you a general sense of the chances of being chosen. Once you both clearly understand the process, decide on a timeframe, explains Bekkering, ?The stronger the desire is, the longer they should be willing to wait. It should be decided by each individual family.?

Next, write a letter to the admissions office immediately after receiving notice of being wait listed. Dr. Robert J. Massa, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Life at Dickinson College in Carlisle, suggest the student write a letter to the Director of Admissions explaining exactly why they believe the college is best for them. The applicant should ?outline why they think the college is the perfect match for them -their learning style, their style of interaction, and their educational objectives. Show that they know the college and that they know themselves. Tell the admissions director why the college will be a better place if they were there. If there is an opening, and the student does this, they will stand a better chance of getting in."

Most importantly, don?t take the final decision as a personal insult. Colleges differ in how they take students from the wait list for admission. Sabena B. Moretz, Associate Director of Admission at the University of Richmond, explains, "Some will admit the student who calls them every day because they believe that student is the most likely to enroll. Others admit student athletes, star musicians or students with particular personal qualities that the school needs.?

Instead, play the cards that are dealt. Help your child prepare for the second choice school. It can?t hurt to stay on a wait list, but if you're son or daughter is waitlisted at one institution, the odds are great they?ve been accepted somewhere very similar. Allow yourself and your child to become excited about where they've been accepted. No matter the outcome, the college selection process should remain a positive experience.

Monica Wheeler is a national- award- winning freelance writer, who has helped thousands of parents and students prepare for university admissions. For ?35 Practical Ways to Get Money for College? visit