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Admissions Waitlist: What Is It? What Do You Do Next?

Mid-March to May is an emotionally tumultuous time for high school seniors and their parents. Emails that start with “Congratulations” slowly find their way into email inboxes, only to be dwarfed by the “Sorry we don’t have better news” notifications and offers to be placed on their waiting lists.

First and foremost, we want to reiterate that an admissions decision is by no means indicative of your intelligence or how hard you’ve worked in the last four years. It’s natural to be sad and disappointed, but don’t beat yourself up or lose faith in your abilities. Take deep breaths, exhale, confide in people you trust, and plan next steps. It’s the only way forward.

So what does it mean to be placed on a waitlist?

  • The wait-list contains students qualified enough to be admitted, but the school simply doesn’t have enough spots available in its freshman class. There are instances where over-qualified applicants are waitlisted, since the school is certain those students will choose to attend a more competitive institution. Universities want to keep their “yield rate” (the percentage of students who were offered admissions and actually choose to attend) as high as possible. For example, West Point has a near-perfect yield rate of 98%, which means for every 100 acceptance letters they send out, 98 students enroll. By comparison, Stanford’s and Harvard’s yield rates are both 82% (statistics from 2019.)
  • If a significant number of admitted students don’t enroll, the admissions team will offer acceptances to wait-listed candidates. Universities will NOT notify waitlist students till May or much later.

What do you do next? Refer to the pictures below for more information.

1) Assess your options:

 

Is the wait-list school truly a top-choice school? The odds are slim, and unpredictable. Schools can notify wait-list applicants of the final decision anywhere from May all the way to August-it feels like playing the lottery. A few schools may accept up to 30-40% of its waitlist students, like UC Berkeley, many others accept 0, like Colgate.

For more information, you can check out: https://www.collegetransitions.com/dataverse/waitlist-statistics

Is waiting in limbo truly the best option?

2) If you accept your spot on the wait-list, immediately notify the school with a letter of continued interest (if allowed), and keep in regular contact with the admissions office:

In this letter, you will reiterate your desire to attend the school and update them on recent achievements of yours, such as: stellar academic performance, new and improved standardized test scores, activities and competitions you continue to participate in, etc. While it’s natural to feel discouraged or disappointed, try to focus on the positive and show gratitude that the school is still considering your application.

Colleges often have blog posts on how to deal with being wait-listed. Here is Tufts' blog entry for reference: https://admissions.tufts.edu/blogs/inside-admissions/post/waiting

3) If possible, pay the deposit to a school that you've been accepted to:

This is the safest plan, so that no matter the outcome of the wait-list process, you will have a home for the next four years.

If you have any questions or inquiries, please don't hesitate to email contact@pointavenue.com and we'd be happy to help! Best of luck!

 

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