Oberlin Blogs

Song for the Waitlisted

April 2, 2012

Emily Wilkerson ’15

Well, it's that time of year again. The time when letters and e-mails are all any high school senior can think or talk about, particularly ones that spell out "Congratulations" loud and clear across the top and include scholarships with lots of zeros at the end. Since I only applied to college a year ago and a lot of my friends are still in high school, all of that is pretty fresh for me. So I've been doing a lot of thinking about those letters and e-mails. While I was home for spring break I briefly considered going on a hunt for whatever letters I received (I deleted the e-mails months ago), but unsurprisingly, my mom got rid of them all.

"All of them," you may be thinking, "what about your Oberlin acceptance letter?" Well, truth is I never got an Oberlin acceptance letter. What I initially got was a waitlist letter. I remember exactly how I felt when I got it. I knew that a thin envelope from a college likely wouldn't contain any good news, so I wasn't too surprised when I read the word "waitlisted." I barely reacted, I just went upstairs, got into the shower, and cried. Based on what people had told me about how difficult it is to get off of waitlists, I figured that my dream of going to Oberlin would never become a reality. After about 24 hours of intense angst (following a few months of college-related angst in varying intensities), I decided to regroup. I still really wanted to go to Oberlin, so I had to figure out a way to make that happen

I started out by reading these posts, which were super-helpful in dispelling some waitlist myths. Then I filled out the card that Oberlin sent me along with my letter to reserve my place on the waitlist.1 Next I wrote a letter in which I declared my love for Oberlin and listed everything I had accomplished since submitting my application, which was a pretty interesting exercise in that it made me realize that even though my senior year felt like a total suck-fest, I had actually done some pretty cool things. Sidenote: if you're feeling down about any period in your life, I would highly recommend just listing off your accomplishments to give yourself an ego boost, it really works.

Anyway, after sending in my letter, I submitted my deposit to another school and tried to forget about the waitlist. In my opinion, moving on and focusing on another school is absolutely crucial. That's not to say that a waitlist letter should be treated like a rejection, obviously I ended up getting into Oberlin, all I mean is that hanging all of your hopes on the waitlist is pretty unwise. I started looking at the course catalog, went to an accepted students day and began preparing myself to go to college somewhere other than my dream school (aka Oberlin). I like to think that if I hadn't gotten into Oberlin, I would've been 100% ok with it. Then I got a phone call from the Oberlin admissions department. Obviously, I was thrilled, but oddly enough, I had done such a good job of convincing myself that I wanted to go to another school that I was a bit hesitant to accept Oberlin's offer. Once I snapped out of it and squared away my financial aid I officially accepted Oberlin's offer.2

I could easily just say that after that, everything was hunky-dory and I went off to Oberlin without a second thought. Of course, being the worrier that I am, I felt kind of anxious about going to Oberlin as someone who was accepted off the waitlist. I worried that I wouldn't meet any other waitlist acceptees and that people would judge me when they found out. Again, this turned out to be totally untrue. My then-roommate told me that she had been accepted off the waitlist in one of her first introductory e-mails to me and, purely by coincidence, one of my closest friends at school is a fellow waitlister. No one can tell that I wasn't accepted ED or RD, and if I really didn't want anyone to know, no one would have to.

If you get anything from this post, know this: the waitlist isn't that big a deal. Sure, waiting sucks, but after a few months of waiting, how bad can a few more weeks be?3 Resist the urge to make comments about being a part of "Waitlist class of 2016." Try to think of acceptance as a lovely surprise and that way if you don't ultimately get accepted, you might be upset, but it won't be the end of the world. I know this advice sounds cheesy, but out of all of the cheesy college advice I heard, this is the only advice that actually had an impact on the way I felt about school, and I figure that it might work for someone else too. Good luck to everyone waiting it out!

1Word to the wise: if you seriously want to attend a school that you were waitlisted at, whether it's Oberlin or not, you need to get yourself officially on the waitlist first. Based on my experience and the experiences of my friends, I can say pretty confidently that most schools have a system that's similar to Oberlin's, but whatever the procedure is, find out what it is and then follow it.

2Another waitlist myth seems to be that people who get accepted off the waitlist don't get financial aid. Without going into details, I will just say that is definitely not true.

3The correct answer: not that bad.

Responses to this Entry

Hi, I was wondering who we should contact to send a letter to Oberlin after reserving a spot on the wait list. I applied to the conservatory, so should I e-mail Mr. Manderen? I believe he's the director of undergraduate admissions.

Posted by: Somok on April 6, 2012 2:15 AM

Somok: Well, I'm in the college, so I sent my letter to a different person, but I just checked the conservatory website and Mr. Manderen is the con equivalent of the person I sent my letter to. Good luck!

Posted by: Emily on April 6, 2012 7:50 PM

Emily, what excellent words of wisdom from someone who has been there, done that.

For what it's worth, I know you would have been fine somewhere else, but I am really glad that you're here :)

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 17, 2012 1:11 PM

Hi Emily,

I too was waitlisted at the place I wanted to go. Actually, I was deferred ED at one place (but didn't get in) and then waitlisted at the place I wanted to go.

Limbo. Waiting. Angst. Fear.

And then they said yes.

I am here to say that some 30+ years since I graduated from said college it rarely darkens my mind that I was one of their second round draft picks. That experience, however, has come in handy as my own kids go through the college admission process. It is good to know there are happy endings out there.

I will be sure to remind my youngest, about to start this trek towards college this year, of your adventures and happy endings too.


Posted by: Barbara on October 3, 2012 4:19 PM

I just sent your blog entry to my daughter who is pretty devastated at being waitlisted for the conservatory. Your thoughts on the waitlist are an absolute blessing and I hope they spur her to regroup and move forward positively. Sincere thanks!

Posted by: Karen van Vuuren on March 30, 2013 10:23 AM

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