I have recently returned from a conference in Philadelphia sponsored by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). As usual, I found this to be an invigorating and rewarding experience. It is nice to hear from other experts and to see if their observations and predictions about all things college-admissions-related corroborate with mine.
One of the great things about these workshops is that I can confirm what is happening with my students versus national trends. I have been hearing, in greater numbers than usual this year, about students being placed on college admission “wait-lists”. I learned just how long these waitlists can actually be and the numbers are staggering. One admissions dean that we heard from said that he hopes he can keep his waitlist to a size that does not exceed the size of his entering class! This is at a very elite, small liberal arts college. This sent me doing a little research on the matter. Sure enough, many colleges had waitlists that were two and three times larger than the size of their freshman class!
So, I decided to do a little more digging with an unscientifically random sample of some nearby colleges. How many of those waitlisted at colleges in our area last year actually got in? Last year Amherst college had put over 1,000 people on its wait list (for a class of about 450) and they didn’t invite a single person off the waitlist to attend. Babson put over 700 students on their waitlist in 2010 and also invited zero to attend. BU had put 2,370 students on its waitlist in 2010 and invited 8 of those students to attend.
It confirms a couple of important things. For one, I will stand by my advice to treat a waitlist like a denial (but first reply that you would like to remain on the waitlist if you are truly interested). And two, reply to the invitation to be on the waitlist! If you don’t bother to reply to the waitlist invitation, you will definitely not be invited to attend. If you have decided on another college and are no longer interested, reply with a short and sweet “no thank you”. The colleges typically are left wondering about the status of their waitlisted students which is exactly why they put so many students on the waitlist in the first place.
So, waitlists are better than denials; but just barely keep that good news in perspective.