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What are Your Chances of Getting Off the Waitlist?

What should you do if you’ve been waitlisted? As high school seniors prepare for admissions decisions, there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with learning you’ve been placed on the waitlist. Do you accept the spot and wait to learn your fate? If you do, how likely are you to get in and what can you do to improve your chances of being admitted off the waitlist?

There are a number of waitlist tips and tricks that students can employ to improve their chances of admission, but will it pay off? In many cases, students’ chances of getting off the waitlist can be pretty slim, but it’s not impossible.

What’s the purpose of the waitlist?
While admission rates are the most competitive they’ve ever been, the actual application process is much more streamlined than it was 20 years ago. With the Common Application, Universal Application, and soon to be Coalition Application, fully digital, it’s easier than ever for students to apply to multiple colleges. According to NACAC, almost a fourth of college bound students apply to seven or more colleges, and for 10 of the last 15 years over 70% of colleges have reported application increases.

With more students applying to more colleges, students have more college options than ever, making it harder for colleges to estimate how many applicants will enroll if admitted. This percentage of admitted students who enroll, known as yield, is really important, as it affects everything from tuition and housing to what courses are offered come fall.

As we’ve said before, it’s possible for most selective colleges to fill an entire second class of highly qualified applicants from the rejection pile. When building a well-rounded class, colleges take into consideration their estimated yield, but they also need a safety net. This is where the waitlist comes in. Colleges fill their waitlists with highly qualified applicants that just barely missed the admit pile. These students are great fits for the institution; the college just ran out of room when building their well-rounded class.

Waitlist Admission Rates
Just like in the regular admissions process, colleges need to evaluate their yield, institutional needs, and other factors before deciding which students, if any, to admit from the waitlist. Waitlists aren’t ranked – meaning there’s not a number one student who will definitely get in if there’s room. Things like a student’s major, legacy status, and more influence whether they get in over another waitlisted student.

Here are some waitlist admission rates from the class of 2019 for reference.

School Waitlist Admission Rate Regular Admission Rate
Amherst College 5% 13.7%
Carnegie Mellon University 4.4% 24.6%
Cornell University 3.6% 14.8%
Princeton University 4.5% 6.99%
University of Michigan 1.9% 26.2%

While many colleges will waitlist hundreds or even thousands of students, not all of those students will accept a spot on the waitlist, making the pool, and the chances of getting in, slightly better in some cases.

What to Do If You’re Waitlisted
There are a number of resources out there for waitlisted students. At IvyWise, our team of expert counselors works with waitlisted students to help them decide the best course of action.

  • First, decide if you want to remain on the waitlist. If you’re waitlisted you’ll need to accept your spot on the list. Take some time to think about whether or not this is the best option for you.
  • Send in your enrollment deposit to your second choice college. With waitlists there are no guarantees, so if you decide to remain on the waitlist at your top-choice college, go ahead and send in your enrollment deposit to your second choice college so you definitely have somewhere to go in the fall should you not be admitted off the list.
  • Update the college on what you’ve been up to this semester and reiterate your interest in the school. This is a big part of the process. Let the school know you’re still interested in attending if admitted off the waitlist. Update them on any new information you want them to consider and let them know that this school is still a top-choice.

We also have a plethora of newsletter, blog, and media articles about what students should do after being placed on the waitlist. Here’s a list of additional waitlist resources and articles for students:

At IvyWise, we also offer a waitlist consultation for students who need some extra guidance about their options and what to do next to increase their chances of admission. Contact us today for more information!