April 10, 2012

Waitlisted? That’s Just a Synonym for “Rejected”

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Many high school students that received admissions decisions from Cornell on March 29 may have been put on a waitlist — that awkward status where students supposedly still have a shot at being accepted by the University. Yet according to The Wall Street Journal, students might as well consider getting waitlisted the same as being rejected.

According to The Journal, none of the 2,998 students that Cornell offered a place on last year’s list were ultimately admitted. That staggering statistic is in line with other elite institutions that accept a remarkably low number of applicants from their wait lists.

Last year, Carnegie Mellon University accepted just six of 5,003 applicants invited onto its waitlist. Swarthmore College took 10 students out of the 948 offered a spot on its list. Approximately 45 percent of students offered spots on a waitlist accept, according to the Princeton Review.

The high number of students offered spots on a waitlist is often a result of schools’ desires to keep their acceptance numbers low to seem more exclusive, according to The Journal.

Schools often pad their waitlists to protect their “yield,” or the proportion of accepted students who choose to attend. They can admit fewer students on the first pass, to maintain their aura of exclusivity, then move on to the waitlist if accepted students turn them down.

Some students are also put on the list as a courtesy, The Journal said. These may be children of alumni or donors who aren’t qualified enough to be admitted.

And then there are the “courtesy” waitlist offers. It is common for elite institutions to place a number of students on their lists even when they have virtually no chance of being seriously considered for admission, [Kennon Dick, former associate dean of admissions at Swarthmore] said. They may be children of alumni or faculty, or candidates whom admissions officers found interesting but whose grades or test scores fell short.

“You’ll get some really angry alumni calling if you deny their kid,” Mr. Dick said.

Those students seeking financial aid from the college have even less of a shot at getting off the list, according to The Journal.

Applicants requiring financial aid may have an even tougher time. Even at a handful of need-blind schools — those that don’t consider financial need in admissions decisions—waitlisted students with less need have an edge. Six percent of private colleges were need-blind in the regular admissions cycle but became need-aware once they started admitting students from the waitlist, a 2008 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling said.

Additionally, applicants this year shouldn’t be any more confident than last year’s applicants that they’ll get off the list, Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid at the University of Pennsylvania, told the paper.

Still, Mr. Shaw doesn’t think waitlisted students should be too optimistic. Comparing their chances this year with last, he said, is “like playing the state lottery versus the national lottery. It’s a million to one instead of a billion to one that you’re going to get it.”

Check out the full article here: http://on.wsj.com/HyvDehAlso take a look at The Journal’s video on college waitlists: http://on.wsj.com/HJobGI

Original Author: David Marten