American Experience | 体验美国

The Nightmare: College Wait List

April 15, 2014 10:00 am | By Dong Yi


Being on the wait list means that you meet the minimal admission requirements of a college, but the college has already accepted the number of applicants it has space for. When the college has space after someone else rejected the offer, you may be given a space depending on how many students are on the waiting list. However, the college does not tell you whether or not you are offered a placement from the wait list until after May 1st. Another common explanation about the college wait list is that it is the college’s polite way of rejecting a student. This way, the student doesn’t feel as bad as if he/she is being directly rejected.

It is often difficult to tell your chance of acceptance into the college which is what makes being on the wait list a nightmare. Depending on the schools that you are being waitlisted, your chance of acceptance through the waiting list varies. For example, in 2012, Stanford University waitlisted 789 applicants and ZERO students gained admission from the waitlist. On the other hand, in that same year, Yale University waitlisted 1,001 students and seventy students (10%) gained admission. Even better, the University of Notre Dame offered admission to 1153 students out of the 2461 students on their wait list.

Your next step is to respond to the college whether or not you want to stay on the wait list. You should stay on the wait list only if you really want to attend the college or if the college is your first choice. In most cases, it is better to ignore the wait-list invitation. In the end, the schools that you applied to are the schools that you like, so why not just accept the admission to a school that welcomes you?

If you do decide to stay on the wait list, these are the things you can do to increase your chance of admission.

1. Find out your rank on the wait list by contacting the admissions office. The higher you rank means the higher chance of you getting accepted.

2. Write a letter to the admissions office that includes new achievement or accomplishment. Make sure to emphasize your desire of getting into the college and why the college is a good fit for you.

This is a table indicating some of American university waiting list statistic in 2012:

College Name Number Waitlisted Number Accepted Waitlist Status Number Offered Admission
Princeton University 1395 906 33
Cornell University 3144 1966 168
Boston University 2649 1340 65
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor 13615 4010 74
Georgetown University 2217 1143 84
Johns Hopkins University 2730 2442 1
Purdue University at West Lafayette 1393 1368 165
Dartmouth College 1691 970 87
Stony Brook University 2176 920 187
California Institute of Technology 651 457 0
University of Pennsylvania 2017 1249 87
Carnegie Mellon University 3664 1296 97
University of Washington at Seattle 2350 1215 588
Georgia Institute of Technology 978 650 43
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 2138 1296 437
Rice University 2304 1402 52