By Timothy Parros and Aimee Nemeth

As colleges are reviewing their second or third wave of applicants you are still waiting for your ‘Deferment’ to be reconsidered. If you followed our recommendations in Deferment 101: Part 1 – The Deferment, you know that in the next month you should be hearing either a (1) accepted (2) denied, or the dreaded (3) waitlisted.

We know that our students have taken our advice and updated the admissions committee with every award they’ve gotten since their original application, given the admission team a idea of how they are performing this semester and what grades they are expecting to receive. They have also secured an extra, prestigious, recommendation letter, or two (whatever is allowed at the college), to their already impressive list of recommendations.

Before the college can make a final decision on your application they are evaluate the strength of the regular decision applicants, as well as the yield rate of the admitted students. They then determine if they have space for you in the freshman class. Please know that weeks are going to pass, in some cases even months… and eventually your student finally has another email from the college’s admission team (I am sure they are checking the college’s portal everyday for a decision.… Eagerly, they the email and their expression falls as they read what is written:


Your heart rate spikes. Your child looks at you with a deflated frown. You both ponder the same question:

Has all of your students hard work been for naught? 

Don’t panic.

That’s the first bit of advice Tim Parros, here at Parros College Planning, has for parents who might be in a bit of a tizzy over the seemingly disappointing news of a waitlist notification.  It’s always important to remember, a waitlist doesn’t mean a denial.

So, what does it mean?

A waitlist is a step away from deferment, but ultimately closer to a final acceptance decision.

Remember in “Part 1” when we discussed how the school wants to review all of the potential candidates before deciding on your student’s acceptance status? A waitlist is the other side of that same coin. The school has finally received all of their applications and they’ve found some students that they want to admit, the only problem is that they’re not sure if the students they’ve accepted will end up choosing their school..

That’s where the waitlist comes into play. At most institutions, the admissions waitlist is full of qualified students who are on the cusp of being accepted. Their fate, however, falls into an intricate system of stats and ratios. As “accepted” students turn down offers from schools, each student on the waitlist is bumped up. This is good news for your student, because it means that the race isn’t over just yet.

There are a few more things your student can do to perk up their application again:

  • Check and see if the admissions office allows phone calls or emails regarding waitlist status. If so, have your student give them a call and ask where their standing on the waitlist. Chances are pretty good that your student will offered admission if they’re near the top.
  • Consider having your student send a formal letter affirming that, if accepted, they will, without a doubt, accept and attend the school. Sometimes this is just the small nudge colleges need to push a student ahead of another with an identical background on the waitlist.
  • If the college does not allow the student to ask questions about the waitlist, at the very least, do not let the student step back and let their GPA slip. Colleges and Universities watch all of their potential candidates meticulously. They will want to ensure that the students they admit maintain academic excellence regardless of circumstances.

However, at this point in the process, if your student has faced both a deferral and a waitlist, it is important to sit down and truly evaluate their options. Perhaps another school has a more competitive financial aid package? Or living on campus at a different college is cheaper than commuting to their “dream” school? And ultimately, as tough as the conversation is to have, you’ll want to discuss what happens if their waitlist letter ends up turning into a denial letter. We have seen students get accepted as late as the middle of May and most kids move on to accept a different offer, closing the book on the waitlisted school.

This can be a stressful time for your student. They’ll often be left wondering what they might have done wrong, or doubting their value as a hardworking academic or student athlete. Be sure to reassure your student that their success in life isn’t dependent on the name of the school on the top of their college diploma.

We advise, if they’re in absolute limbo about the waitlist situation, that they consider a second option before final deadlines for admissions and place a deposit with the second school. The student can always say no to the second school if their first choice ends up accepting them, but this ensures they have a college to go to in the fall. According to CollegeBoard and NACAC, this is the only time a “double deposit” is acceptable in the admissions process*.

At Parros College Planning, we’ve worked with a lot of families who have faced this period of indecision from colleges and universities. We have the experience, compassion, and knowledge to move your family smoothly through the deferment/waitlist/acceptance timeline and help your student find the school that’s their best fit overall.


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