The waitlist: one of the least understood (and least fun) places to be. For students, it feels like limbo. Here are some answers to common questions about the waitlist.
Do I Still Have A Chance?
Understandably, this is the first question I often get asked by both students and parents. The answer is yes...sort of. Technically, there's definitely still a chance you could get into the school, but many schools waitlist hundreds or even thousands of students, and take fewer than fifty from that number. Some schools, depending on the year, don't go to their waitlist at all! As an example, in 2020, Cornell waitlisted 6,750 potential members of the class of 2025, and admitted just 190 of those. To look at a somewhat less selective institution, SMU waitlisted 2,043 in the same year, and eventually admitted 340 of those people.
So, there's a chance. But the fact is that most selective--especially highly selective--institutions waitlist thousands more people than they will admit.
What Should I Do?
If you want to stay on the waitlist, you should be able to indicate this in your portal, and should do so as early as possible. Many schools will give you instructions about how to proceed: if they do, follow the instructions you're given! They may be looking for an additional piece of writing. If so, include any updates as to your achievements or grades as well as information about what you like about the school. If you would definitely enroll if admitted, make sure you say that--it's probably your most powerful card to play.
Be sure you're following the college's instructions perfectly--if they indicate they'll accept more letters of recommendation ,provide them....but otherwise, don't do so. You don't want to give them material they don't want. Make sure that whatever you do submit isn't just a generic statement of interest, but truly personalized to the college. Think of this as your last chance to sell them not just on the idea that you love the school, but that you're a great fit. How will you contribute to campus? What activities might you get involved in? These are questions to answer in your letter of continued interest.
Who Gets In?
The answer to this question varies, but there are some constants. First, unfortunately, the answer is "not many people." The best thing you can do, in fact, is get excited about the places that have admitted you. Students should assume they're not going to get off any given waitlist, no matter how great a fit they are. This includes students with a legacy connection to the school: sometimes, legacies are waitlisted because it's considered a "soft" rejection, or a kind way to say no.
Most waitlists aren't ranked, so it really depends on who accepts their offers of admission. Remember that institutional priorities for most schools are about building a well-rounded class, and the waitlist is simply a tool by which colleges and universities can ensure that they're able to do that.
That being said, students who are more likely to deposit are more likely to get in. In most cases, those will be students who can afford to pay for a school without scholarship money. While it's not entirely unheard of to get scholarship money coming off a waitlist, it is exceedingly rare. Most of the students coming off waitlists are full pay, meaning that they don't need any financial aid or merit money to make the school work for them financially.
You should also keep in mind that you may not hear from a waitlist until summer. Most notifications are rolling. If you want to pursue a waitlist, make sure you deposit elsewhere by May 1, so that you definitely have an option if the waitlist doesn't work out. If you get accepted from the waitlist, you can forfeit your deposit at the other school.
Ultimately, whether to pursue a waitlist is a decision for each student and their family, and our students have certainly come off waitlists to have wonderful experiences at Duke, UC Berkeley, and dozens of other institutions at all levels of selectivity. But students should prioritize the schools that have accepted them as they're working toward making college decisions. Those are places that want you and are prioritizing you...and every student deserves to be someplace that wants them!
What's the Same
All students applying to UT Austin must write ApplyTexas' Essay A, which asks them to tell their story, including but not limited to challenges or experiences that have shaped them. Applicants to UT must also complete four short answer questions, each of which should be about 200-300 words. Aim for 250, but don't worry if you're a little under or over; our students have had successful admissions results with shorter or longer answers, and it's really more about content than length. Think quality, not quantity!
The first prompt remains the same.
Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
It's all about specificity here. For better or worse, UT is one of the few schools in the country that admits almost entirely by major, which means that the fit for your intended major is especially important. Even if you're an auto admit because of class rank, you're not guaranteed to get your preferred major or even school within UT, so this prompt is a big deal for all applicants. Use the space to highlight any experiences you've had, classes you've taken, or activities you've pursued that relate to your major, and don't be afraid to explain how seemingly unrelated items from your resume have prepared you for your future or might transfer to your field. A short anecdote about how you developed this interest is also welcome.
Secondly, connect this to UT: you shouldn't think of this prompt just as "why this major" but as "why this major AT THIS SCHOOL." What does UT specifically offer that no other school does? Why is it your top choice? What professors might you do research with, classes might you take, or opportunities would you take advantage of? This is the place to tell your admissions reader!
The COVID-19/additional information prompt from last year remains the same, as well.
*Initially, we thought this prompt was optional this year: all indications are that it is REQUIRED and this post has been updated the reflect that information.
Please share background on events or special circumstances that you feel may have impacted your high school academic performance, including the possible effects of COVID-19.
Last year this prompt was optional, but it is required this year. If you have something substantive to say or something you need to explain, like a drop in grades or bad performance in a particular class, this is the place to do it, whether or not it had to do with COVID. Focus on a quick, factual explanation of what happened and what skills you've developed such that it won't happen again, whether that's better study routines or the addition of medical treatment.
If you don't have anything to explain, the best course of action is to think about ways COVID might have impacted your academic performance even if they're not reflected on your transcript, for better or worse. It isn't the place to slide in an extra essay about how COVID taught you to be grateful for what you have, for example, and you won't be doing yourself any favors by giving your reader something they didn't ask for. However, if you took the time to explore an additional academic interest, you could discuss that here. If you didn't bond as much as you wanted with your teachers (meaning that one of your recommendations comes from sophomore or even freshman year as opposed to the more typical and optimal junior year teachers), that's also something you could explain in this space.
For those who truly have nothing of the kind to say, don't forget that not everything that impacts your performance is visible on your transcript! If you work incredibly hard for your grades because of a learning difference, or if you feel that you would have had different academic experiences but for scheduling constraints at your school or with activities, those are also things that could go here!
The second prompt is similar to what was there in past, but newly worded to give more scope to more students, so we love this change!
Describe how your experiences, perspectives, talents, and/or your involvement in leadership activities (at your school, job, community, or within your family) will help you to make an impact both in and out of the classroom while enrolled at UT?
This prompt used to be purely about leadership, but this rewrite is an amalgamation with the old third prompt (which invited students to comment on how their perspective or experiences might enrich the environment on campus.) It allows students with strong leadership experience to highlight it, but don't feel limited to conventional positions like "President" or "Team Captain." The admissions office is just as interested in hearing about unconventional or unofficial ways you've displayed leadership traits or ways in which your experiences or perspective are different from those of others. Our advice is to think of a trait or two you'd like to highlight, and tell a story or two to do so. Make it clear why you feel the trait you're highlighting is an important one and how it would enrich the school or make an impact...but don't feel it has to fall into the traditional definition of leadership or involvement.
Relatedly, don't forget that they're already seeing your resume (and the UT resume is a whole separate post!) The activity or experience you discuss here may appear there, but bring something new. Avoid repeating your bullet points, and try to highlight something different than you did in your Essay A or in the other short answer prompts.
The new third prompt is an interesting one.
The core purpose of the University of Texas at Austin is "To Transform Lives for the Benefit of Society." Please share how you believe your experience at UT-Austin will prepare you to "Change the World" after you graduate.
Whew, this a lofty question! It's a combination of a standard "Why this school?" with some other elements. As with the other questions, specificity is key: what, specifically, do you see yourself doing in ten years, and how will UT--better than another school--prepare you to do this? Students who don't know exactly what they want to do may want to take this space to talk a bit about what their definition of a good education is (Well-rounded? Turning you into a writer? A critical thinker? These are all possibilities!) and how UT will provide such an education.
Note the slight social justice orientation of the question, too. Whether or not you're intrinsically interested in service or social change, UT is pointing toward students making an impact beyond themselves, and you would be best served by an answer that takes this into account in some way, whether it's within your future career or your personal life. But don't be worried if your career plans don't have a charitable bent--there are a lot of ways to "change the world," so interpret the question in a way that works for you!