Devastated by waitlist from a “sure” thing

So a couple of years ago, I managed to apply and get accepted to graduate school at Boston College. I was so excited, but I ended up having an emergency come up so that I couldn’t afford to move. This year I found myself in a much better position financially and I applied to BC again. I talked to the director of the program at BC (who I had communicated with before) and she said she was “delighted” I was reapplying. My application was even stronger this time around because I’ve been doing more things since the last time I applied. But today I got the email saying I was waitlisted. I just wanted to know so badly one way or the other and now I don’t. I’m really disappointed that I got in before, but when I am in a good position financially to move to Boston I didn’t. The email from the director had been so encouraging, but I guess she wasn’t that “delighted” by my application because I didn’t get in.

Any advice for how to handle this? I’d like to know if there was anything I could have done differently, and since I had an correspondence with this professor I thought I could reach out to her and ask for advice. I’m not really sure what to say though.

Was this a masters or PhD program? Was it funded?
A couple of possibilities: 1. Another student was accepted, and they are waiting for a response. They are keeping you waiting in the event the other student turns down the offer.
2. If this is a funded position, their source of funding (like a government grant) is uncertain and they don’t want to commit to accepting anyone yet.
See if you can find the situation or conditions of the waitlist and how close you might be towards the top of the list. Otherwise, start looking around for another program.

I know of a student a few years ago who applied to several PhD programs and was accepted to his first choice, with the proviso that he delay for a year. This fit with plans as he had a post-graduate grant for study abroad for 9 months. While in the middle of his study abroad, he received a message from the school saying that an expected grant didn’t come through and that they would have to withdraw their offer. He went back to the schools he had previously applied to and found one that could accept him again, and he is in the process of completing his degree. So things can work out.

Hi, thank you for your kind reply. It was only a masters program, and they usually accept a decent number of people (based on statistics from years past) so I’m not really sure what happened. It wasn’t funded, but I had applied early for scholarships which I assume went to people who have been offered admission. The email said that the other students have until April 15th to confirm their admission so I should find out if I’m removed from the waitlist after that date. Do you think I should contact the office to ask about my position on the waitlist? Or should I try to connect with this professor again and ask her about my chances, maybe restating my interest in the program?

I did get accepted into William & Mary so all is not lost. I just kind of had my heart set on Boston and felt a bit hurt that I got rejected from a school that I could have already graduated from if I had gone a couple years ago. Also, I now have to pay a deposit at W&M (which is due by April 15th) and then potentially lose money + reconsider if I get off the waitlist at BC. I just wish I knew either way instead of being stuck in limbo, you know?

Call and ask about your position on the waitlist on April 15th, if you haven’t heard anything by then. I don’t think everyone will wait until the very last day to decide.

I would call your contacts at BC, tell them that BC is your first choice, and that you enthusiastically accept the position on the WL. I would ask whether there is any possibility of hearing sooner than A15 as that will have a financial impact for you.

If A15 is set in stone, you will have to pay the deposit at William and Mary. Think of it as an insurance policy.

What happened to you in terms of not being accepted the 2nd time isn’t that rare. The school has a lot to consider when accepting students for small programs, from funding to meeting the research needs of different profs. Don’t take it personally!

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Also remember that the world is not what it was ‘a couple of years ago’. Our grad school kids reported super-high numbers of their peers applying to grad schools this year, and a colleague on the admissions team at a different university said that they are really taken aback at the qualifications they are seeing this year- experience & test scores are both running well above normal. A colleague at a different university said that they have cut all the ‘soft edges’- no deferrals / if you have already deferred once it’s use it or lose it / etc. this year b/c they are are really struggling to get the classes sorted after all the chaos last year and with the high demand this year.

This is a tough year all 'round.

Thank you, I will definitely call the office if I haven’t heard anything by April 15th!

Yeah, I emailed the professor I really wanted to work with at BC and never got a response back. By contrast, I had a great conversation with one of the professors at W&M who told me that he thought I would do well in the program. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think he was in charge of admissions for that program, and I got an acceptance from that school a few days after I submitted my application. It really seems like grad school is all about what professors want to work with you on research, even at the Masters level.

That makes a lot of sense! I kind of figured people would defer last year because they didn’t want to deal with online classes and now everyone is applying at the same time this year.

(also, W&M as an ‘insurance policy’ is pretty great)