What is the waitlist?
Each year, colleges admit a certain number of applicants to fill their incoming class. The number of admitted students who decide to enroll in a particular college fluctuates from year to year. In anticipation of this fluctuation, colleges have a waitlist in case the number of admitted students who say yes to the college falls short of the expected incoming class size.
It’s more a “waitpool” than a “waitlist”
The word waitlist is a bit misleading. It’s not really a list with ranking. It’s more like a waitpool. Admission from the waitpool will depend on what the incoming class is missing. For example, if the admissions committee wanted to admit two violinists to play in its orchestra but only one decided to matriculate, the admissions committee would go back to the waitpool and find another violinist to fill that spot.
What are the chances of getting off the waitlist?
Unfortunately, your chance of getting off the waitlist of a particular college is impossible to predict. Some colleges have waitlists as long as their incoming freshman class. For example, Princeton enrolled 1,290 students for the Class of 2025 while offering 1,265 students a spot on the waitlist. In the same year, Cornell offered 7,746 students a spot on its waitlist, double the size of its incoming freshmen class of 3,718 students.
The number of students being admitted from the waitlist also fluctuates greatly from year to year. For example, in 2021, Princeton admitted 150 students from its waitlist. However, it only admitted 26 students in 2020 and 1 student in 2019.
What should you do to get off the waitlist?
1. Opt in to the waitlist before deadline
When your application becomes waitlisted, the college will ask if you want to opt into the waitlist. If you’re interested in the waitlist, remember to opt in before the deadline.
2. Write a letter of continued interest
Write to the college and express your continued interest and intention. The email doesn’t have to be long. In fact, it’s best to keep it short and to the point — admissions officers are busy. If that college is your first choice and you would attend for sure if admitted, confirm that. If you have any updates about your coursework or achievements, include them. This will reemphasize your interest in and dedication to the school.
Example: Letter of continued interest
3. Send further updates when available
If any substantial updates come up, such as winning a prize or receiving an award, email the admissions office again. Remember, only email them with substantial updates. You don’t want to come across as annoying or desperate.
You should definitely pursue the waitlist at your college of choice. Students do get off from the waitlist. But due to the unpredictable nature of getting off a waitlist, you should also love the college that loves you. You will have an amazing education if you seize all the opportunities available to you.