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Responding To The Notification Decision Part One – Wait Listed by Dr. Don Martin
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago, IL
Wednesday, February 22, 2023

You will most likely receive one of three decisions from the admissions committee:  1) Being place on a waiting list; 2) Denial; 3) Admission.  What follows are some of the tips for responding if you are placed on a waiting list.  A complete list of tips can be found in  my book, Road Map for Graduate Study – for more information, please see comments at the end of this article.
Wait Listed – In some ways, this is the hardest initial decision – you still don’t know anything one way or the other. “Wait” often feels/sounds like a four letter word.  But don’t despair.  Accept this decision, and consider doing the following:
  1. Don’t take it personally. This is so much easier to say than to do.  No one likes to be told they have been put on a waiting list.  Most likely, this means that while you have some very strong credentials, you were not considered to be as competitive as those being offered admission.  However, the good news is that you were not denied.  There is still a chance, and from my experience, in most cases, a very good chance you will be admitted.
  2. Don’t assume you are going to be denied. As I just mentioned, most likely the opposite is true.  If you stay calm, confident and patient, you will most likely get more encouraging news down the road.
  3. Make sure you follow instructions. Once again, be professional and do what is suggested or asked of you.  If you do not receive any information about what to do next, ask.  Don’t demand, complain or argue.  Just ask if there is anything you can do.  If you are told no, accept that and do not do anything.  It may tell you something about this institution if they do not provide you an opportunity to further address your interest in their program. If you are given specific instructions on what you can do, follow every one of them.
Below are some steps you may be told to take or that you may choose to take if there is something you can do:
  1. If feedback is offered, ask for it. Listen to what you are told.  Do not argue, become angry, or speak with a chip on your shoulder.  Thank the provider of the information and make sure you know how you are to respond.  If a letter is requested, prepare it as soon as possible.  Address each issue head on and explain why/how you believe you can “overcome” the concern.  Also, it would be good to strongly reiterate your continued interest.
  2. Mount a letter of recommendation campaign. This is the time to have two or three additional individuals write recommendation letters for you.  These individuals need to provide persuasive evidence of why you would be a valuable addition to the incoming class.  You can ask your original recommenders to write another letter.  My two cents:  It is better to have other individuals do so at this point.  At most, do not send more than three or four letters of recommendation at this point.   More than this is overkill.
  3. Request a campus interview. If your request is granted and this is a top choice on your list, do it.  If a campus interview is not made available to you and you conducted an interview with an alumnus during the application process, contact him/her and ask for a recommendation letter.  This person might even be willing to call the admissions committee on your behalf.
  4. Be cautiously creative. Some waitlisted applicants send a CD, poem, photo album, acronym, e-card, a “Top Ten Reasons Why I Should be Admitted” list, etc.  Please do not do all of these for the same institution!  Choose one.
  5. Write a confidential, hand-written note to the person who signed your notification letter. This could be sent a few weeks before a final decision is expected to be made.  Indicate your strong interest in this program.  Mention that you have responded as requested to your wait list status.  End the note by thanking this person for the time and attention he/she has given and will give to your application.
  6. Practice your skills in patience and professionalism. If ever there is a time when you help admissions evaluators get a sense of you for better or worse, it is when you have been placed on the waiting list.  There are several reasons for creating such a list; one reason that is not among them is that of deliberately trying to frustrate or test you.  If you come across as being offended, inconvenienced, angry, resentful, argumentative or arrogant, you are almost certainly determining the outcome of your application – you will be denied.  However, if you go with the flow, and hang in there with a positive and confident outlook, you will help yourself greatly.
  7. Prepare for either admission or denial. While one decision is much easier to prepare for than the other, be ready for either response.
Next Week:  Tips for what to do if you are denied or admitted.
Be sure to check out Dr. Don’s book, “Road Map for Graduate Study, A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students,” right here on the GSRM website. For a reduced price CLICK HERE, go to The Book page, scroll down, click on the Order Now box, and use discount code GSRM.
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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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