Over the past week, I received many questions regarding waitlists. The first point to bear in mind is that colleges build waitlists to help the college, not the student. They build waiting lists to ensure that they have full freshman classes. Since not all accepted students will choose to enroll, these lists allow colleges to reach out to students they would like to accept but do not have the space to enroll. This system is hard on students because the school is not sending a clear message regarding an offer of admission. Some students describe it as being ‘in a state of limbo.’ While students and their parents are accustomed to wait-listing at private schools, most are surprised to learn that the University of California also uses waitlists.
First and foremost, the waitlist is an enrollment strategy. It is an enrollment management tool that helps campuses reach their enrollment targets and budget objectives. This is especially important during tough economic times when public universities may be dealing with recent and planned state budget cuts. In the fall 2011 admissions cycle, the UC used waitlists at many campuses and has done so again this year.
How many students are accepted from the waitlist?
This enrollment strategy was first used by the UC in fall 2010. So there are limited data points to draw upon. For example, in 2010 just two campuses—UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara—admitted significant numbers of students from their waitlists. Their final freshman classes included more than 40% of students admitted off the waitlist. In 2011, more campuses admitted significant numbers of students off their waitlists.
What our students need to know:
• Students may receive waitlists offers from more than one campus. Students may accept as many offers as they wish. Waitlist offers will be made by the end of March for freshman applicants and the end of April for transfers.
• Once students are offered a spot on a waitlist, they must opt in or lose this opportunity. Instructions for opting in will be included with the waitlist notification.
• Even if students accept a waitlist offer (or several), students should submit a Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) by the stated deadline to a UC campus (or other college or university to which they have been accepted). If they later accept an offer of admission from a campus where they have been wait-listed, they may forfeit their deposit at the first campus. Check specific campuses for details.
• Preliminary financial aid awards will be sent at the time students are notified of waitlist offers. Students who submit their SIR by the deadline will be considered on time for housing and orientation scheduling purposes.
• Wait-listed freshman applicants will be notified of their status no later than June 1; wait-listed transfer applicants will be notified by July 1st.
There are key differences between being placed on the waitlist at a private college versus the UC. The main difference has to do with the amount of control you have over the process. At a private college, you can continue to add important information to your application, write or call to show your continued interest and generally assure the college that it is your first choice school. A few UC campuses (for example, UC Davis) offer the opportunity to write a brief statement about why you want to attend that particular UC. Other than that, you can do little but wait, and that can be unnerving for students and their families.
It is important to focus on the schools that accepted you without reservation. If you have received admission offers from one or more UC campuses, out-of- state public and/or private colleges consider these opportunities carefully—this time from the fresh perspective of an admitted applicant. These colleges want you and indicated their interest with a firm offer(s) of admission. Ultimately, being a wait-listed applicant may not prove as satisfying to you as accepting an offer of admission from a college that was attractive enough to make it to your college list in the first place. Knowing what college you will be attending in the fall will allow you the freedom to move forward, make definitive college plans and enjoy the remainder of your senior year.
Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides high school, transfer and college students through the complex world of college and graduate school admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized essay coaching and tools and helps you tackle each step of the admissions timelines with confidence and success. Elizabeth advises students from all backgrounds, including college-bound athletes, and maximizes merit and financial aid awards. She earned certification from UC Berkeley in College Admissions and Career Planning. Visit www.doingcollege.com for more information. Call her @ (925) 891-4491 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.