The waitlist, more often than not, is that great void known as the Black Hole of college admissions, where applications go to die.

You, as the applicant, must get your applications in by deadline, or else. You must file for financial aid and scholarships by dates certain, or else. You must notify colleges of your acceptance decisions by May 1, or else.

Colleges, on the other hand, are not so much bound by deadlines. Apply Early Action, expecting a definitive answer sometime between December 15 and January 15? Maybe. Then again, that answer could come in February or March, and rather than "accepted" or "denied," it could be the limbo of "deferred."

When push comes to shove (gee, is it March already?), and colleges have to let students know where they stand (or else?), the ultimate "keep 'em in stitches" -- the waitlist.

Just how long do students remain on the waitlist? Typically, at least until the college knows who's coming, and who is not. Almost always, that will be after the May 1 acceptance deadline set by most colleges. Or, it could be September, the colleges waiting to see who actually enrolls. Then again, it could be never, students who were waitlisted when the Berlin Wall tumbled still waiting to hear.

What to do? What to do?

While the colleges want waitlisted students to inform them of their continuing interest, as well as new developments not previously reported in the admissions process, what they do not want (and most schools state this specifically) are additional essays, follow up letters, or a reincarnation of information already in hand.

And don't send chocolates or gift baskets, either. [Okay. Do send them. After all, the Admissions Committee gets mighty hungry sending out all those letters and emails. That is, when the Dean isn't Tweeting or blogging.] Your unsolicited expressions of love, gratitude, and groveling won't get you in.

Yes, do let the school know that you are still interested. [Typically, there is a short form to complete for that purpose.] Then, assume (and statistically, this is a good bet) that you will remain on that waitlist until well after the May 1 college acceptance deadline -- or forever, whichever comes first -- so make plans to enroll in one of the other schools you've been accepted to.

Then pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and ask yourself, "Do I really want to go to a college that can't make up its mind whether it wants me or not?" The answer should, most often, be, "No. I'm going to a college that has made me an offer and welcomes me with open arms!"
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