Let’s talk about being waitlisted for PA school. I know that this can be an uncomfortable subject but it’s an important subject to cover incase you find yourself in this position. What is a waitlist? (also can be called an alternate list) Let’s say you apply for PA school, you interview and then there are three ways it will go from here. 1. You are accepted into the program as a future student. From here you can accept or decline the offer. 2. You are waitlisted, which means you are put on a list of people that if a spot opens, it may end up being yours and 3. You are rejected. Rejected is the one you do not want. It is much better to be waitlisted than to get a straight out rejection because at that point in the current cycle, your time with that particular school is done. There is no way to go back and dispute that in any way and you have to move on.
The waitlist can be a little frustrating and everyone's first question is, “why am I on the waitlist?” I get emails like this constantly. First of all, being on the waitlist does not say anything about you as a person. It does not mean that you are a failure. It does not mean they hated you. There are a lot of factors here and you have to be a good fit for that program which you all know how competitive PA school is. Sometimes there is a person who has just slightly better stats than you or interviewed a little bit better and that is why you are on the waitlist while other times there isn’t a particular rhyme or reason. Don’t try to read into it too much or use this as something that affects your identity. I know how tough it is. It stinks and it’s a huge disappointment but again it doesn’t say anything about you as a person -- I just want to make that clear before we move on.
Some schools even have waitlists for interviews which is a little bit of a different situation but just know that this is not an uncommon practice for a school to have. Each program has a limited number of spots and they have to choose who they think is going to fill those spots appropriately and make a nice cohesive class that is going to do well over the next two years.
Once you receive notice that you are on the waitlist, it is ok to take a couple of days to let it sink in and it’s ok if you don’t feel excited about it. Just brush it off, move on and get to work and prepare for the next time. If you are in The Pre-PA Club on Facebook, there are tons and tons of people who are on the waitlist and tons of people who have gotten off the waitlist too. I was on there the other day and one person said they got pulled off the waitlist a week before school started. Now that’s a little nerve-wracking. It’s a very fluid process. Just know that every school has a different process as to how they do waitlists.
Some of them will have a group of applicants on a waitlist and if a spot opens up, they go back to the list and reevaluate everyone and choose a candidate to offer an acceptance to. This is an unranked list.
There are schools that write their list as they come and sometimes these rates are set in place so they will tell you your number. You could be number two and be number two no matter what. These can be fluid lists as well though. If they have another interview group come in and they may put someone else down as number two and then you get bumped down to number three. Schools do not always disclose where you are at on the list. If they are going to tell you, they will go ahead and tell you. It’s not going to be a secret but if they don’t disclose you probably can’t convince them to tell you. It doesn’t hurt to ask but most likely they are going to share because that is not how their waitlist works.
Everyone wants to know what their chances of getting off the waitlist are. You can call and ask but they probably aren’t going to tell you because even they don’t know what the chances look like. I would say most schools have a waitlist around 40 (from what I have seen). They essentially keep they waitlist the same size as the class just in case something happens. They can pull 30% of the class from the waitlist one year and just 1 or 2 people from the waitlist the following year.
What you should know about being on a waitlist and what your chances are, it's hard to say because of all these different processes. If you think about it, people are getting accepted to different schools every single day. Their first choice may not be your first choice. If you're on a waitlist at your first choice program, and then someone else who has been accepted that program gets into their first choice, that opens up a spot. That's why I say this process is so fluid and always changing. Just know that there's a chance and please don't give up. I feel like I've gotten so many sad emails lately -- it makes me feel so sad. Just really, really try to hang in there and know that you can come off the waitlist. When can this happen? I mentioned earlier, but it can happen up until the program starts. The thing is PA programs want to have a full class, they want to fill every single seat. Of course, things happen -- people have emergencies, illnesses, family issues, and sometimes they have to give up their seat last minute. These schools want to have someone in that seat. That's why you could get a call even a few days before school starts. It's it can be crazy.
Another thing that complicates this is if you're on the waitlist, but you've been accepted to another school and you're on, let's say, the waitlist for your first choice. That's tough -- what do you do? It's my opinion that you have to think really long and hard before you give up an acceptance, just because that may not come again. You don't know what the next class of applicants is going to look like, or the school will change their requirements. If you have been accepted, really think about giving that up. If you just want to be happy at the school and don't feel like you could do it, that might be a good reason to give it up. Otherwise, I would try to stick it out. You may lose some deposit money if you come off the waitlist, but in the grand scheme of things that is not the end of the world.
One thing I know some people do when they have an acceptance to their second school and they are waitlisted for their first is to call the school and let them know what is going on and see how they respond. I have seen it go both ways. Sometimes, it lights the fire and they accept you because they want you and other times they will see that you already have an acceptance somewhere and let you go. So there is definitely a risk there but again, I have seen it pay off. I think there is no shame in letting the school know that they are your number one choice. I did that in my interviews, and I think it paid off. If you're being genuine about it, they'll be able to see that.
So In the meantime, you get this call, you're on the waitlist, you take a couple days you take a bath, get a massage, eat ice cream, self care, people! Now you go okay, well, what can I do. If you're on a waitlist, go ahead and start preparing, as if you need to reapply. Take a very objective, look at your application, find out where your weaknesses are. I found that most people want to focus on their strengths and keep making those stronger instead of making their weaknesses better. That's something I've seen in The Pre-PA Club on Facebook, too. People will say- I'm not going to take more classes, I'm not going to do more hours, I'm not going to volunteer more and that's not really the best attitude to have. If you really want to get into PA school, you've got to think about making your application as strong as possible and giving the admissions committee no reason not to accept you. You want them to look at your application and go, they've done everything they can and I don't have a reason not to accept them. That comes down to volunteering hours, shadowing hours ,healthcare experience, patient care experience -- hours gain a variety of experience, a variety of shadowing, showing commitment to the underserved and your community.
Look at your grades, this is everyone's least favorite but looking at your grades, looking at your GPA… are all of your prerequisites correct? Are they matching up the way they should with the programs you're applying to? Maybe even retake classes and get those higher score. Really look at every single part of your application and go into this as if you're going to have to reapply. If you do something that's significant, i.e., if you get a lot more hours, if you take some classes, tell the program you are waitlisted at that. Shoot them an email and just say, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I have 400 more hours of working as an EMT, I've been volunteering an extra hundred hours and I just finished my repeat of general chemistry and I got an A.” Give them an update because this does a couple of things, 1. It shows that you are still working towards this goal and you're not just sitting at home waiting to see what happens and that you are still available and interested. I would much rather you send an update to a program then just constantly be asking, Am I still on the waitlist? What rank am I? You certainly don't want to annoy them before you are even student. Being able to update them on what you're doing to be a good student is a little bit more of a smooth way to do that to get your name in there to remember you and then hopefully, hopefully, hopefully get off that waitlist. Fingers crossed.
If you're on a waitlist, please let us know in the comments below and we will send all the good vibes and prayers your way and support you through that.