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What are Your Chances of Getting Off the Waitlist?

IvyWise Live: What to Do If You Get Put On The Waitlist

Watch our IvyWise Live webinar What to Do If You Get Put On The Waitlist for expert insight on how the waitlist works, your chances of getting off the waitlist, and the next steps you need to take over the coming weeks!

What are the chances of getting accepted after being 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 getting 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 and 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.

This year, many selective colleges are seeing applicant pools that are larger than they have ever experienced. With many colleges moving to temporary test-optional admissions policies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students who may have once been discouraged from applying to a highly selective college are now hitting submit. As a result, applications submitted via the Common Application rose by 13% this past year. This indicates that many students may be casting a wider net when it comes to college admissions.

Given these heightened numbers, some students will 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.

To add to the uncertainty, many colleges experienced a dip in their yield rates last fall. For example, in 2019, Stanford had a yield rate of 82%, but in the fall of 2020 it dropped below 68%. Similarly, Yale’s yield rate decreased from 69% to 55% over the same time period. Consequently, admissions officers will want to ensure that they have a healthy number of waitlisted applicants, to make sure they can fill every seat with a qualified student. As we’ve said before, 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.

Just Admit It!: What should I do if I got waitlisted?

Listen in as IvyWise college admissions experts share tips on what waitlisted students can do to optimize their chances of enrolling at their best-fit universities in our Just Admit It! episode ‘What should I do if I got waitlisted?

College Waitlist Chances

Just like in the regular admissions process, colleges need to evaluate their yield, institutional needs, legacy status, 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.

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. According to NACAC, 20% of all students who chose to remain on waitlists were ultimately admitted. However, at selective colleges, the average was much lower, with only 7% of students who accepted waitlist spots gaining admission.

Waitlist Statistics

Colleges provide information on waitlist statistics in their annual reporting of their Common Data Set (CDS) and often in university publications when admission statistics are announced. According to MIT waitlist info, about 2% of applicants were offered a spot on the waitlist for the class of 2025 – about 680 students. Stanford waitlisted 652 applicants to the class of 2025, with 535 accepting a spot on the waitlist, and 61 gaining admission. Some additional examples from the class of 2025 include:

  • Amherst had an 8.74% acceptance rate and 42% yield.  They waitlisted 9.18% of applicants, but did not accept a single student from the waitlist.
  • The University of Michigan had a 20.15% acceptance rate and 45% yield.  They waitlisted 22.34% of applicants, and accepted just 0.5% of waitlisted students who accepted a spot on the list.
  • Princeton had a 4.38% acceptance rate and 78.32% yield.  They waitlisted 3.36% of applicants, and ultimately accepted 15% of waitlisted students who accepted a spot on the list.

Here are some waitlist admission rates for the class of 2024:

SchoolWaitlist Admission RateOverall Admission Rate
Amherst College0% (no students admitted off waitlist)8.74%
University of Michigan0.5%20.15%

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 articles and resources 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!

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