Special Circumstances

College Admissions Waitlists

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More and more colleges are not offering admission up front, but they are putting students on their waitlist. If you are on a college’s waitlist, it means they have accepted the students they want, but you are not rejected. They are letting you know if you decide to stay on their waitlist that if an accepted student chooses not to accept their slot, the college will offer you the vacated spot. Of course, you are not the only waitlisted applicant, and you will never know how many are ahead of you to take up those vacated spots. You also may, by being accepted late, have fewer options for courses and dorm placement.

The National Association of College Admission Counselors has recently reported that the practice of wait listing was up and only about 28% of waitlisted applicants are finally accepted, only 11% at the more selective schools. Often these students have to wait into summer before they hear of their acceptance.

One reason why more schools are even bothering to waitlist applicants and why fewer of those waitlisted students actually get an acceptance in the end is because of the increase in the number of college applications across the board. It’s all about colleges’ yield rates. Colleges want all students they accept to come, but that doesn’t happen. As students apply to more colleges today, they have more choices. With several acceptances in hand, they are able to accept whichever college they want, turning down the others. That leaves some colleges with empty space and lowers their rate of yield per number of acceptances.

That’s why colleges like Early Action. Students apply early, get accepted early, and then promise they will come, this all before they know where else they may be accepted. There is a 68% increase of Early Action acceptances. Everyone knows where students will be in the fall. But, fewer students are applying for Early Action because they don’t want to commit before they know what their possibilities are, choosing to wait for the normal notification time on May 1 for regular acceptance and hoping to get more than one acceptance. That means colleges are back to the uncertainty of regular acceptance yields. Their answer is to dangle some students with a possible acceptance up to the last minute when their regularly accepted students let them know if they are coming or going elsewhere. The waitlisted applicants are then used to fill empty slots.

In some ways wait listing is a good deal. After all, you are not rejected and still have a chance. Many people who know they will be successful at a college, even when the college doesn’t, get their chance. But, waitlisted students can lose out, too.

  • First, they are not taking an acceptance where they are really wanted.
  • Second, sometimes they wait until it’s too late and wind up with a year off.
  • Third, they wait and go to a school where they have already lost out on course selections and on the best financial aid package because monies have been used up.

Remember 65.5% of all applicants are accepted at a college. This is a large number, better than half. That means you will get a college acceptance, and you may be better off going with a sure acceptance than choosing to wait on a college’s waitlist.