Waitlisted! – Midway between Acceptance and Rejection

What do you do when you have applied for a scholarship position, gone through the interview stage, and received a response stating that you were not selected but due to your performance in the interview you would be placed on the waitlist? This simply means that  you only get contacted should the selected candidate not accept the position. In a typical waitlist process, a pool of candidates are placed on the waitlist and positions are then filled up based on the performance ranking of the students on the waitlist.


We worked with a client who found herself in a similar situation. She had applied for the PhD position, attended the interview, and received a response that she would be placed on a waitlist, meaning she would be the next in line to be offered the scholarship only on the basis that the successful candidate doesn’t show up.  The tough bit is that since the selection was for a PhD project and only one candidate had been selected, the chances become even slimmer.


Most times scholarship decisions are a binary – 0(rejected) or 1 (accepted). To get that ‘wait list’ email could be a ray of hope, but could also work to your disadvantage since you are placed at the edge. The good side is that it is a pointer that your candidature (profile) was good enough to make the committee consider giving you a chance to stay. On the flip side, it could just have been the university’s backup plan such that they are not compelled to restart the recruitment process if the selected candidate doesn’t show up. Put in another way, if the chosen candidate fails to accept the position for any reason, they would have to place a new advert, since an outright rejection is a proof that you didn’t qualify for the initial advert.


Being on the waitlist could give you so much hope. It could be tempting to keep waiting and miss out from other positions. But is it the best to wait indefinitely for this position to come to you and then neglect to try other options? How long should you wait before moving on and what should you be doing while you wait? These are some issues that we deal with on a case by case basis at Express Refiners.

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