Wait listed: Join the (Ever Growing) Crowd

waitlistedUnder a published series of “best practices” colleges who are members of the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) specifically agree to:

 

“provide in the notification letter or electronic communication of those applicants offered a place on the wait list a history that describes the number of students offered places on the wait lists, the number accepting places, the number offered admission, and the availability of financial aid and housing;”

 

Yet according to a study conducted by NACAC, 72 percent of the colleges and universities responding to NACAC’s admissions trends survey did not inform students about their position on the wait list or their likelihood of admission.

 

Although 80 percent provided some written information about wait list policies, this information generally pertained to directions for remaining on the wait list (93%), the amount of time students had to respond to being accepted from the wait list (64%), and the last date that admission offers would be made (59%).

 

In its most recent report on the State of College Admission, NACAC found that 43 percent of colleges used a wait list—up from 32 percent in 2002. Forty-two percent of colleges and universities reported increases from fall 2012 to fall 2013 in the number of students who were placed on wait lists. In addition, institutions reported placing an average of 10 percent of all applicants on the wait list for the fall 2013 admission cycle, and an average of 49 percent of wait listed students opted to remain on the list.

 

According to NACAC, institutions admitted an average of 30 percent of all students who chose to remain on wait lists. BUT, those colleges and universities accepting fewer than 50 percent of applicants overall admitted an average of only 16 percent of wait listed students. This suggests that many thousand wait listed students were left unnecessarily hanging on to hopes and dreams.

 

Sadly in the wait list game, colleges hold all the cards. Not only can they place as many students as they want on the list to help ensure they never run out of potential applicants, they often do so with callous disregard to the anxiety and stress these lists cause.

Although some colleges do provide wait list statistics for families to review, many do not. Even for those college publishing their statics on the Common Data Set, some of the more exclusive colleges and universities leave one or more of the questions pertaining to wait list numbers blank. Even when they do disclose much of the information that is helpful to determining an applicant’s chances of success on a wait list, the information is usually a year or two old.  Each class is different and you never really know without the benefit of hindsight if the information you have is accurate.

 

Why some colleges are hesitant to be public about their wait lists isn’t such a mystery. Wait lists are getting longer, and the odds of being plucked off the list are stacked against the average applicant. But colleges claim they need wait lists and have no problem stringing along several thousand students for the purpose of admitting only a handful—even in cases where some have already filled nearly 50 percent or more of the class through binding early admission!

 

With special thanks to Nancy Griesemer for her work in this area, you can see just how exaggerated this problem has become at some of the most well-regarded institutions in the country. If nothing else, the statistics below from the 2015-16 CDS strongly suggest that NACAC needs to revisit the issue of wait list abuse and encourage more transparency within its members.

 

Amherst College, MA
Total applicants: 8568
Enrolled: 477
Wait listed: 1398—16% of total applicants or 293% of total enrolled (643 accepted places)
Admitted: 33 (61 in 2014)

 

Cal Tech, CA
Total applicants: 6506
Enrolled: 241
Wait listed: 615—9% of total applicants or 255% of total number enrolled (429 accepted places)
Admitted: 0 (47 in 2014)

 

Carnegie Mellon University, PA
Total applicants: 20,547
Enrolled: 1575
Wait listed: 5526—27% of total applicants and 351% of total number enrolled (2835 accepted places)
Admitted: 4 (73 in 2014)

 

Cornell University, NY
Total applicants: 41,900
Enrolled: 6315
Wait listed: 3583—8% of total applicants or 57% of total number enrolled (2231 accepted places)
Admitted: 81 (96 in 2014)

 

Georgia Tech, GA
Total applicants: 27,277
Enrolled: 3089
Wait listed: 3397—12% of total applicants or 110% of total number enrolled (2031 accepted places)
Admitted: 38 (174 in 2014)

 

Johns Hopkins University, MD
Total applicants: 24,716
Enrolled: 1299
Wait listed: 2752—11% of total applicants or 211% of total number enrolled (1747 accepted places)
Admitted: 187 (1 in 2014)

 

Lehigh University, PA
Total applicants: 12,843
Enrolled: 1261
Wait listed: 4234—33% of total applicants or 336% of total number enrolled (1847 accepted places)
Admitted: 0 (2 in 2014)

 

Northwestern University, IL
Total applicants: 32,122
Enrolled: 2018
Wait listed: 2614—8% of total applicants or 130% of total number enrolled (1452 accepted places)
Admitted: 43 (55 in 2014)

 

University of Notre Dame, IN
Total applicants: 18,157
Enrolled: 2007
Wait listed: 1602—9% of total applicants or 78% of total number enrolled (869 accepted places)
Admitted: 0

 

Princeton University, NJ
Total applicants: 27,290
Enrolled: 1319
Wait listed: 1206—4% of total applicants or 91% of total number enrolled (857 accepted places)
Admitted: 39 (41 in 2014)

 

Rice University, TX
Total applicants: 17,951
Enrolled: 969
Wait listed: 2237—12% of total applicants or 231% of total number enrolled (1659 accepted places)
Admitted: 127 (150 in 2014)

 

Stanford University, CA
Total applicants: 42,497
Enrolled: 1720
Wait listed: 1256—3% of total applicants or 73% of total number enrolled (927 accepted places)
Admitted: 0 (7 in 2014)

 

Tulane University, LA
Total applicants: 26,257
Enrolled: 1719
Wait listed: 3413—13% of total applicants or 199% of total number enrolled (921 accepted places)
Admitted: 0 (0 in 2014)

 

UC Berkeley, CA
Total applicants: 78,924
Enrolled: 5550
Wait listed: 3760—5% of total applicants or 68% of total number enrolled (2445 accepted places)
Admitted: 1340 (437 in 2014)

 

University of Michigan, MI
Total applicants: 51,761
Enrolled: 6071
Wait listed: 14,960—29% of total applicants or 246% of total number enrolled (4512 accepted places)
Admitted: 90 (91 in 2014)

 

University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, NC
Total applicants: 31,953
Enrolled: 4076
Wait listed: 3144—10% of total applicants or 77% of total number enrolled (1513 accepted places)
Admitted: 78 (31 in 2014)

 

University of Pennsylvania, PA
Total applicants: 37,268
Enrolled: 2435
Wait listed: 2474—7% of total applicants or 102% of total number enrolled (1438 accepted places)
Admitted: 90 (136 in 2014)

 

Wesleyan University, CT
Total applicants: 9822
Enrolled: 757
Wait listed: 1877—19% of total applicants or 248% of total number enrolled (884 accepted places)
Admitted: 12 (70 in 2014)

 

 

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