Now that April 1st has passed, most colleges have notified their applicants of admission decisions, ending an unusually anxious period of speculation about how the economy, juxtaposed against the largest class of graduating seniors, would impact the admission decision process. Though many colleges did have record applications this year, some have actually hedged their bets, admitting more students and maintaining larger waitlists, in anticipation of student fallout due to the recession. This year no one on the admission side is confident that they will know what their freshman class will look like by the May 1 deposit date. Will families ultimately choose state school options, feeling they can’t justify the cost of private school tuition in today’s economy (for more on Paying for College – Tacking the Tough Questions, see my article under Helpful Resources – Recommended Reading on my website)? The likely result: colleges will go to their waitlists this year, perhaps to an extent not seen in prior years. Schools probably won’t know until August what their ultimate freshman class will look like, as students get off waitlists at their first choice colleges and walk away from deposits at other schools.
So what does this mean for students who have been waitlisted at their number one choice? No one can predict how deep into waitlists college will go this year. In prior years, 14% of waitlisted students, on average, were ultimately admitted, though Harvard took a whopping 200 off the waitlist last year! While I honestly believe that colleges will heavily rely on waitlists to fill their freshman class this year, I would not advise a strategy of holding out for a school. It’s still a big unknown so students should focus on the options that they have and commit to a college that has already accepted them. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your hopes of getting off the waitlist. Get in touch with the school and let them know of your continued interest and why you think you are a good fit. Be specific on what appeals to you about the college and what you have to offer the school. Update the admissions committee on any positive changes in your profile, whether it is grades, awards, or some other honor or achievement. Then, don’t stalk. You have demonstrated your interest. Now commit in your mind and heart to one of your accepted school options. Remember, all your choices are good ones!