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 Cornell’s waitlist?
Unfortunately, predicting your chances of getting off Cornell's waitlist is impossible. Over the past five years (2017-2021), Cornell has put 5,000+ to 7,000+ students on the waitlist each year, which is actually more than the number of students it admitted!
The number of students admitted from Cornell’s waitlist in the past five years has varied greatly, from only 24 in 2021 to a staggering 190 in 2020.
What do all these numbers mean?
If Cornell is your top choice, opt into the waitlist and submit a letter of continued interest to the admissions committee. Students (a lot of them, if you’re lucky) do get off from the waitlist, but it's important not to become overly fixated on this. Even Cornell cannot predict how the waitlist will ultimately play out before May 1st.
To ensure that you have a viable option, pay the deposit to a college that you would be happy to attend. Love the college that loves you. If you seize all the opportunities available to you, you will have an amazing education wherever you choose to go.
What should you do to get off Cornell’s waitlist?
1. Opt in to the waitlist before deadline
When your application becomes waitlisted, Cornell 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 Cornell 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 Cornell 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. Sending 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.