If you were wait-listed at your first-choice college, you’re not alone. Every year tens of thousands of hopeful high school seniors hear they’ve been wait-listed. It can be a rough experience. But it doesn’t have to feel that bad, if you have a strategy for dealing with it.
Wait-listing has become common, but many students and their families still don’t know how to handle the situation. That’s why I revisit the topic each year.
Most colleges use wait lists to manage what they call their yield. That’s the number of students who actually end up enrolling. The yield is always lower than the number of students offered admission. That’s because some students get accepted at more than one school and end up turning down several offers. Each year, as more students apply to longer lists of schools, the number of students who accept offers drops at even the most prestigious colleges. This phenomenon can wreak havoc with a school’s yield. To protect their yields, more colleges are turning to longer waiting lists.
Some schools also use wait lists for political purposes. They may be reluctant to insult an affluent or well-connected alumni by rejecting his or her child. To take some of the sting out of it, they’ll wait-list the applicant. If your local congressman’s trouble-making kid with a B- average gets wait listed, that may say more about the parent’s relationship with the school than about his kid’s chances of getting in.