Anyone who’s been on an admission waitlist can tell you that it’s a frustrating place to be! On the other hand, the fact that the committee has waitlisted you shows that you’re very close to the top of their admit list.
If you’ve been waitlisted by a PhD program, what should you know, and what can you do?
There are some important things to consider and be aware of.
Do you want to stay on the PhD waitlist?
First, consider whether you want to stay on the waitlist. Ask yourself:
- Do you have other offers?
- Is this your top-choice school?
- Is it the only school you were waitlisted at (with rejections everywhere else)?
If you definitely want to stay on the waitlist, look carefully at the correspondence you received from the program and see whether there’s anything you need to do or to let them know. For example, do you need to confirm that you want to remain on the waitlist? If so, you can take that as an opportunity to briefly affirm your interest in their program. Most PhD programs aren’t interested in having a lot of contact from you, and you don’t want to turn them off by being overly chatty, so don’t send them unasked-for materials. (Conversely, if they ask for updates, be sure that you supply them!)
The PhD Notification Timeline
Second, understand the timeline you’re dealing with. For most U.S. PhD programs, April 15 is their notification/enrollment date. Schools require a commitment from admitted students by that deadline in order to fill their classes by that date. If there’s movement off the waitlist, you can expect to hear something as April 15 approaches (and even slightly afterward).
If you’ve received notification that you’re on a waitlist, you’re dealing with a program that is at least being transparent about its waitlisting procedures. You could be on a waitlist and not even know it. Most programs start letting admitted and rejected students know their status in late February or early March, but the process lasts until mid-April.
Many schools will rank candidates below their “admit” list, but not send a notification unless a space opens up – in other words, you might not hear anything at all from the school until they determine, in April, whether they have space for you. (Talk about frustrating!) Schools that do this will send their final rejection notifications in April, too.
If you’re on the waitlist and you haven’t heard anything as April 15 approaches, you can consider contacting the admissions chair to ask what your rank is on the waitlist – that will give you a clearer picture of whether you have a realistic chance.
Financial Implications of the PhD waitlist
Third, consider whether there would be any financial aid/funding implications to being admitted to a program late (if you do decide to remain on the waitlist and are admitted). Some programs may have distributed all of their fellowship funds early to students at the top of their list.
Unfortunately, being on the waitlist does require some patience, but the fact that you’re waitlisted at a very competitive program means that your application is strong and that the admissions game isn’t over yet.
Do you need help making sense of your waitlist status and determining your next admissions move? Accepted’s expert advisors can help you with that (and with any other element of your PhD application). Check out our Waitlist Services for more information on how we can help you get ACCEPTED.By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, former Accepted admissions consultant. Dr. Blustein has a BA and PhD from UCLA in English and Comparative Literature. She formerly worked as a Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center where she gained experience guiding applicants in areas of admissions and funding. Dr. Blustein’s clients have been accepted to top Master’s and PhD programs in dozens of fields across all disciplines. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!