The Value of Wait Lists Vary from College to College: Don’t Get Sucked In!

Many seniors did not get accepted to one or more of their schools but may not have been denied either. That means they fell into the unenviable position of being placed on a college’s wait list. I say unenviable because while it may feel better than a denial, in many cases it can amount to the same thing. Why? Because too many schools are utilizing their “waitlists” not for purposes of managing what they refer to as “yield” (how many admitted students actually accept a slot with that college), but rather to soften the blow of telling a student they will not be able to be admitted to College X or University Y. These are what we call “soft” wait lists and they are used as much to help assuage the ego of a student, the family and many times, the high school, as they are to avoid delivering a letter or notice of denial. Some may find that a kinder, gentler result for a student.

In some instances, especially at slightly less selective colleges, those wait list spots are still very much alive, with schools fully believing they will be going to their waitlists toward the end of this month or shortly after May 1. In too many cases, however, the wait list is one more way of prolonging the agony for some students who have been deferred once already from the same school or who had their hearts set on a school that has placed him or her on a wait list of 3,000 from which occasionally a few come off. Relating this information to my previous post, not a single student has come off the Tufts University wait list in the past two years. Students have found fabulous alternatives.

The message here is easy: check the box that you want to remain on a school’s waitlist; let them know you are still interested and THEN MOVE ON! Make your 2nd choice your first or your third choice your first and embrace the amazing options that you have while deliberating on the best match for you. It’s always so much nicer to go to a college where you know they are eager to have you and you will likely make a distinctive mark on that very institution that may not have started out as your favorite but will undoubtedly end up being the one that made you the happiest!

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