This is the time of year when students are getting offered spots on waiting lists. I wanted to share a previous post that I wrote about waiting lists that is just as relevant today.
This weekend I heard from old friends who wanted to share with me stories of brilliant students who got shut out of elite universities.
At a party, a former colleague of my husband’s mentioned that he was stunned that his son’s friend didn’t get into Stanford University. The boy is a stellar student and he only missed two or three answers on the SAT. He is a gifted jazz musician and throughout the party we were listening to an amazing recording of his jazz quartet.
Yesterday a dear friend in Maryland told me about a young man she knew who was rejected by Johns Hopkins University and some Ivy League schools. This young man has been doing research at Johns Hopkins during his summer vacations and his extracurriculars were just as long and impressive as the kid from San Diego.
“Can you believe that this boy got rejected from all these schools?” my friend asked. I think I startled her when I said, “I’m not surprised. In fact, I would have been shocked if he got in.”
I am always amazed that brilliant children and their often accomplished parents have a disconnect when it comes to their admission expectations. When they look at Stanford’s admission rate of 5%, they don’t seem to think it applies to them. If anybody can explain this, I’d love to hear it.
The plight of these teenagers reminded me of two of my previous posts:
Trying to Beat the Wait List Odds
I’m bringing this up today because many of these spurned students are now hoping against hope that they will be plucked off the wait list of their dream college(s). I heard from one of these teenagers last week who wanted advice on how to get off the wait list of the University of Notre Dame.
I am equally surprised that students think they can get lucky on the wait list. My advice to them is simple: Forget it. Move on and be happy with one of the schools that would truly love to see you in its freshman class.
Finding a School’s Wait List Statistics
It’s usually futile to hope for a wait-list rescue. You can find the wait-list odds of a school by heading to the College Board’s website. Type in the name of any school and when you are directed to its profile, click on its Applying hyperlink.
Let’s take a look at the wait-list odds for Notre Dame. (NOTE: I pulled the Notre Dame figures that you see below from the College Board last spring. When I tried to update the statistics moments ago, I discovered that Notre Dame stopped sharing wait-list stats with the College Board. I guess Notre Dame didn’t want to be embarrassed by its wait-list practices!
During the past admission season, the school offered 1,521 students a place on its wait list and 806 students accepted the invitation. How many students got accepted from the wait list? ZERO!
Dartmouth College’s Wait List
Notre Dame is hardly the only school stiffing hopeful teenagers on its wait list. It took me 20 seconds to find another example. As you can see below, Dartmouth offered 1,855 applicants a spot on its wait list for the 2014-2015 school year and 1,133 accepted. Not a single soul, however, was accepted off this list.
Wait List Overkill
The wait list numbers for a particular institution will vary every year, but at elite schools the odds will always be lousy. During the 2012-2013 school year, for instance, Notre Dame offered significantly more students a place on the wait list (2,461) and 1,153 accepted. The school eventually plucked 86 from the list. And the year before that, 951 applicants accepted a place on the Catholic university’s wait list, but the school only offered admission to seven applicants.
Abusing Wait Lists
Why do schools place so many kids on their waiting list when there is little to no chance of getting off of them? Because they can.
Schools use their wait lists as a way to manage their admission yield. They’d rather put more students on a wait list and pluck teens off as needed than accept more students and then see too many of these teenagers spurn their admission invitation.
Schools want to be in control of saying, “No.” And when they say no to more students, they look more selective which appeals to families looking for elite schools. And U.S. News & World Report’s also rewards schools that reject more applicants.
One major reason why highly ranked schools are placing more students on wait lists because admission administrators are stressing out that ambitious applicants are applying to a very large number of elite schools and they can’t get a handle on which teens would accept an invitation to their school.
With help from the Common Application that makes it easy to apply to many schools, some high-achieving, affluent students are treating college admission to elite schools like a high-stakes lottery. The application mania also explains why prestigious private schools are accepting more early-decision candidates whom they can lock up early.
Using a wait list is also a way to reject students without completely demoralizing them. It can be a helpful tool, for instance, to turn away students of alumni, who are not desirable candidates. Some students see an invitation to a wait list as something to even brag about. I’m not joking.
The wait list also allows some schools to generate more revenue by not offering financial aid to anyone rescued from their lists.
What I find sad is that so many students are pinning their hopes on suitors that have spurned them. This prevents these teenagers from getting psyched for their grand adventure at whatever colleges they end up attending.
Don’t let this happen to a child you love!