Waitlisted Students Should Answer Their Phones

Admissions officers have been calling waitlisted students to offer them admission since the telephone looked like this one (photo credit: Jonathan Mauer).

As we have expressed many times over the years on the pages of our college admissions blog, our nation’s elite colleges tend to notify applicants of their admission off of waitlists via phone. Are there some schools that send email notifications? Yes. But we would say the vast majority of our nation’s elite schools notify waitlisted candidates via old-fashioned phone calls. And why? A few reasons. One, admissions officers are human beings. These are dark times as we fight off a global pandemic. It’s exciting to be able to deliver a young person news that can change their lives for the better. Two, admissions officers can make sure the message is delivered rather than lost to spam (yes, we’ve had students whose offers of admission off waitlists have been filtered into spam folders). And three, these colleges can then often get a quick response — which they very much want.

Waitlisted Candidates Should Answer Calls from Unknown Numbers

In a New York Times piece entitled “As Students Put Off College, Anxious Universities Tap Wait Lists” by Anemona Hartocollis and Dan Levin, they detail the story of a high school senior in Albany, New York who learned of her admission off the Rice University waitlist via phone. As they write, “Ms. [Tiffany] Tang, the high school senior whose options greatly expanded this week, said she was not offered a spot by Cornell, but the school emailed to ask if she was still interested. And when the Rice admissions officer called from Houston, Ms. Tang said, she looked at the unfamiliar area code and almost did not answer. ‘But I did, and it was definitely just a really happy surprise,’ she said.”

When a College Asks If You’re Still Interested, Show Your Enthusiasm

So what is the lesson for high school seniors who happen to remain on college waitlists? Answer all calls from unknown numbers right now. Even if it’s a robocall. Who cares — then just hang up. But it could be an admissions officer granting you a slot in the incoming class. And as to Cornell University calling Ms. Tang to see if she was still interested in a slot in its Class of 2024, even though she didn’t earn a slot in the first wave of waitlist admits, Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball hereby forecasts that if she told that admissions officer she was absolutely still interested in attending Cornell, she will be earning admission to Cornell in short order.


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