What You Don’t Need to Know on a Waitlist

By - Jan 23, 10:55 AM Comments [0]

At the Ross waitlsit chat yesterday (transcript should be posted next week), there were the usual percentage of questions related to waitlist stats. Indeed, at this time of year every year, waitlist applicants obsess over previous years’ acceptance rates at the schools waitlisting them. Nervous, tense applicants ask, “How many students at School X have been waitlisted and then accepted? Is there a difference if I’m waitlisted earlier or later? Are the GPA and test scores different for waitlisted applicants?” And every year the obsession mystifies me.

For the life of me I can’t see why those numbers are so important. Most schools accept some students from the waitlist. The accepted students are 100% in; the rejected students are 100% out. If your school last year accepted 5% or 15% or 25% of waitlisted applicants, is that number really going to change your behavior?

If you need that data to determine whether you want to remain on the waitlist, it's useful, but realize that last year's numbers are not predictive. If the school has a higher yield than last year, the WL acceptance rate will plummet. If it has a lower yield than last year, the WL acceptance rate will climb. And if schools change the number of applicants they waitlist, last year's stats are truly meaningless.

My sense is that schools are waitlisting more applicants this year because of

  • Increased uncertainty related to the recession and credit freeze.
  • A desired to protect yield, the percentage of students offered admission who decide to attend, and a factor in US News rankings.

Indeed yesterday, Ross revealed that it is waitlising more applicants this season, but indicated that last year's waitlist was unusually small. Regardless of cause, if this trend is widespread, waitlist stats from previous years will have less relevance than ever, and even in previous years they lacked predictive value.

Focusing on past WL acceptance stats is merely a distraction. What should you focus on? Striving to make your case for your fit with the program and your qualifications. Or determining your alternatives if not accepted at your waitlisting school.

If you need help making that argument for acceptance, consider Accepted's waitlist advising and editing services or our waitlist ebooks:

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