The Pros and Cons of Being Waitlisted
Yesterday, my daughter and thousands of other applicants received their Regular Decision results from The University of Chicago. She, along with thousands of others, was waitlisted. It was another record year for UChicago – over 30,000 applicants for approximately 1,500 spots. This was a 20% increase in applications over 2012, for the same number of spots. About 10,000 of the applications were for Early Action (non-binding option where decisions are received mid-December) and only 13% of early action applicants were accepted. Along with applications, the yield rate (number of accepted applicants who actually enroll) for UChicago is also up. In 2012, it was almost 47%.
So let’s do the math. I am going to assume yield of around 50% to account for a slight increase over last year’s yield to go along with the increase in overall applications. For Early Action candidates, that would mean that of the 1,300 or so who were admitted, around 650 will enroll. That leaves about 850 spots for Regular Decision candidates. If approximately the same percentage of Regular Decision candidates are accepted (13%), that would mean out of the remaining 20,000 candidates who applied Regular Decision, plus whatever percentage of Early Action candidates were deferred to Regular Decision, close to 2,600 applicants would have gotten acceptances on Friday. If around half of those enroll, UChicago would have over 2,000 students for about 1,500 spots. I’m guessing UChicago is counting on less than a 50% enrollment rate!
That leads me to the Pros and Cons of Being Waitlisted:
Con #1 – In this year of record applicants at highly competitive schools across the country, your chance of being admitted off the waitlist is lower than ever. Even if only 40% of all admitted applicants enroll, that should be enough to fill the class. On top of that, schools are putting a higher number of applicants on the waiting list, so there is more competition for any spots that do open up. From the little information I can find about how many applicants typically are admitted off the waiting list for any school, it looks like anywhere from 0 to 100.
Pro #1 – You weren’t declined! UChicago reported in 2012 that they had waitlisted 3,000 applicants (a number that displayed a steady increase over the last decade to go along with the applicant increase). Assuming the number is a little higher this year (let’s guess about 3,500), anyone who was waitlisted was still within the top 12% of all applicants! You can take some comfort in knowing that you were at the top of the applicant pool, just not quite high enough to make the cut. The school didn’t really say, “We don’t want you,” they said, “If we had more spots to fill, we would offer you one.” When people ask whether you were accepted, saying you were waitlisted is better than having to tell them you were declined.
Con #2 – You didn’t really get in either. Especially if this was your #1 school, your dream of acceptance didn’t come true. Yes, you should be glad that you weren’t declined, but this outcome isn’t what you wanted. You will need to find another school that you like equally well, or at least as a close second, and enroll there.
Pro #2 – You get to move on. (This is the optimistic view of Con #2.) Even if you decide to stay on the waiting list just to see what happens, you will be forced to pick another school. You can turn your attention away from this one and invest it fully on the school you choose. Then, if you are one of the lucky few who make it off the waiting list (usually sometime in May), you may even be over the waitlist school and want to stick with the one where you enrolled.
Con #3 – If you get accepted off the waitlist, and decide to enroll, you will lose your deposit at the other school where you enrolled.
Pro #3 – If you do get accepted off the waitlist, you are not obligated to enroll. You will still have the opportunity to decide if losing your deposit at “School B” is worth it so you can enroll at “School A” and evaluate whether you still really want to go to “School A.”
For my daughter, UChicago wasn’t really her “dream school.” There were reasons why she really wanted to go there, but there were other reasons why she wasn’t so sure. She is ok with being waitlisted. She was happy she didn’t get declined and she is ready to move on. Slowly, but surely, all roads are leading back to the school that we thought would be her best fit.
What about you? Do you have any experience with being waitlisted? If so, please share it for all those parents and students who have just experienced it for the first time or may experience it in the coming years as application rates continue to rise.