Oberlin Blogs

My Waitlist Story

March 24, 2018

Megan McLaughlin ’22

The day I heard back about my admission decision from Oberlin was the day after one of my biggest musical accomplishments to date. The high school I went to does a big fancy concerto competition every year, and I was one of the six soloists they chose to perform a concerto of my choice to a crowd full of people, as well as for a livestream to people who couldn’t physically be at the concert. It can’t be properly put into words how important this yearly concert is, but suffice it to say that it was the one of the only times in my life I have thought “Wow. I am honestly the coolest cat.” However, it was kind of a delayed irony when I was waitlisted at half of the only school I wanted to go to the next day.

I didn’t cry when I saw that I was waitlisted at the Conservatory, but accepted into the College. These two halves of the same school make their decisions independently from one another, which I knew going in, and which I was reminded of in both of my decision letters. I always knew Oberlin was a long shot, but this particular scenario was not one of the approximately 50 billion I had thought of since submitting my application.

I still think that the timing was somewhat poetic/ironic/whatever-ic given the relation to my high school’s concerto concert, but that did not comfort me at the time. I spent my days brooding over the fact that I might not get to go to my dream school– I couldn't imagine never returning to the little town of Oberlin, Ohio, ever again. I did not enjoy my senior year for a multitude of reasons, and getting waitlisted did nothing to improve my mood. 

I heard back from other colleges. I was accepted into both the school of music and the college for the state school that resided in my hometown; a good school, definitely. Not a bad place to spend four or five years, and I was pleased that I got in, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

I could have immediately put down my deposit for Oberlin’s College, but I went into the college application process knowing that I wanted to do music as well as academics. It was looking like my choices were to go to my dream school for half of what I wanted to study, or a less ideal school for both of my majors. I knew that either way I decided would leave me at an unhappy medium, so I tried to think about college as little as possible as May 1st drew nearer. Still, it managed to consume my thoughts. I didn’t want to make any decisions, because I knew I wouldn’t be happy with whatever happened. There was always the possibility that I could hear back about the waitlist for the Conservatory, so I was in no rush.

There were times when I thought that maybe I should have rejected my spot on the waitlist, because I spent several weeks in limbo. In my Conservatory decision letter, it said that I could be accepted from the waitlist anytime before June 30th, but decision day was May 1st. I had two good choices to choose between, but neither that I wanted to do for four or more years. It was a frustrating situation, albeit not nearly the worst scenario that could have happened. 

Several days after receiving/not receiving admission from Oberlin, I got the blue box in the mail. I had completely forgotten about this. It was mentioned in the College’s celebration Facebook post, and I remembered filling out a question on the Common Application asking for my T-shirt size, but I managed to forget in the midst of my angst and depression. I opened the box, and here was this cute T-shirt, and here was my admission letter in paper form, this time with a little note in purple ink saying “you + Oberlin = :)” And here was my scholarship award, which I missed the first time around because I was too busy trying to check my admission for two halves of the same school. That letter is what really got me. It ended with “Congratulations again, Megan. We would be honored to claim you as a lifelong Obie.” That was when the tears came. Tears everywhere. Water pouring from my eyes. I collapsed onto the floor because I was now living the ever-tragic life of a soap opera character. Hey, I would also be honored to be a lifelong Obie, but sometimes things aren't so simple.

I sent an email to someone about the waitlist, who sent me an incredibly kind but not celebratory email back, and then I emailed him again a week later. Nothing. I tried to picture myself going to the big school that accepted both halves of me; I joined their class of 2021 Facebook group, and attended an admitted student day, but I am not a natural optimist– I could not get myself excited about the prospect of attending this school. Even if it ended up happening that I went to school there, and enjoyed it, I would always wonder what my life would have been like had I gone to Oberlin.

That same night as the admitted student event, I received an email from Oberlin saying that my application status had been updated. I checked it, assuming it was something from the college about turning in health forms, but no. There was an eight second long video of an orchestra playing a fanfare with the words “You’re in!” displayed across the screen along with virtual confetti. Well, look at that.

I hesitated for maybe seven minutes, and that’s being generous. Even though I wasn’t excited about the big school, I still tried to put effort into convincing myself that I would enjoy going there, and that maybe if Oberlin didn’t accept me, it might not be the college I was supposed to attend. I believe in a sort of circumstantial fate, and only when it suits me, but that was what I was going with to try and move past the idea of not going to Oberlin. However, given the opportunity to go to both the College and Conservatory, all my reservations were gone. 

I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t fit in because I was accepted from off the waitlist, and I didn’t bother going to any of the All Roads Lead to Oberlin events. I went into my college admissions process knowing that Oberlin was the right school for me, and after nearly a year here, I am still unwaveringly confident in my decision.


That’s my waitlist story– the first part of this post. It was a year ago today that I received my admissions decision, although it somehow feels much longer. I started writing this blog post in August, before I got to Oberlin and before I knew I was going to write for the admissions blogs. When I was hired as a blogger, I marked March 24th as National Waitlist Day in my calendar (National Waitlist Day is not actually a national holiday, and to my knowledge it is only celebrated by me). This blog post has been a long time coming, and despite me fitting my waitlist story into a ~hopefully somewhat concise~ post, it was an unpleasant path. That being said, I am grateful that this story has a happy ending, but I want this blog post to have a larger message than “better late than never and now Megan gets to attend her first choice college.” I have two things to consider/ignore if you wish/keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation that remotely resembles mine:

Number one: college acceptances do not define who you are. I know this is a cheesy, often-repeated mantra that is mainly used as a consolation for not getting into certain colleges, but it’s still true. You have a whole world out there, and the approval of someone who is basing their decision off of what you can fit on a piece of paper or how well you perform for upwards of ten minutes does not tell your story. 

Number two: I really do think that emailing someone to ask about my place on the waitlist did something. They say that the waitlist isn’t numbered, but they have to decide who gets in somehow. There are lots more waitlist blog posts where people explain how they sent in extra writing samples or another letter of recommendation after they were waitlisted, but technology and the college admission process is different now. That being said, I am likely wrong and I really have no authority to speak on the subject of the inner workings of the waitlist, so take this point with a grain of salt and possibly take a gander at some other waitlist-related blog posts here and here.


I’d like to end this somewhat long post with a moment. There is only one picture in existence of me at a college audition, and it depicts me standing awkwardly in the middle of Tappan Square, squinting into the camera amidst the surprisingly bright winter sun. I treated college auditions more like a task than an experience in a larger journey, which I think I still stand by, hence the lack of pictures of high-school-senior Megan at an audition. But when I was leaving Oberlin after my audition, I had a feeling that I would want to remember that moment in a different way than every other audition that year. I had a feeling that at some point, I would make it back to the little town of Oberlin, Ohio. 

And that I did. I wish you all the best of luck with your college admissions decisions.

Megan in Tappan Square
Pictured above: said awkward picture of me in the middle of Tappan Square squinting into the camera.


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