The University of Connecticut accepted 80% of applicants who agreed to remain on its wait list in 2014.
Peter Morenus—UConn
By Sophia Tewa
March 30, 2016

In general, the odds aren’t great for the almost 400,000 high school seniors expected to find themselves in the continuing college application limbo known as the admissions “wait list” this spring. On average, less than a third of those who decide to remain on a college’s wait list will eventually get accepted, recent surveys of colleges find.

But a MONEY analysis of colleges with large wait lists has identified several colleges where prospective students are likely to have a better-than-average shot at winning admission, especially if they follow these six steps, such as notifying the college if they do want to stay on the wait list and sending it an update on second semester grades or any other new accomplishments.

How can you tell if you will be one of the lucky ones? Many college admissions officials warn that it is impossible for them to even predict who will be chosen at this point. “Enrollment is a very inexact science,” says Kent Rinehart, dean of undergraduate admission at Marist College. After his staff sees which of the regularly admitted students send in deposits, they look at the wait list and choose applicants who fill in that class’s particular gaps: “There are a host of reasons,” he says. “It could be gender balance, or a particular discipline. or it could geographic.”

Another important factor: money. As you’ll see in the chart, some colleges are more likely to reject wait-listed applicants who need lots of financial aid. And even if you are admitted, many schools will offer wait-listed applicants smaller-than-average aid packages.

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So if you’re hoping to get off of a large wait list but don’t know if the school will meet your financial needs, be sure to send a deposit to an affordable backup college, the experts advise.

“Don’t run the risk of losing a seat altogether,” says Amy W. Jarich, director of admissions at the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley expects to put more than 3,000 students on its wait list, and it has generally accepted only about 20% of those who agree to remain on the list. (Berkeley does not factor a student’s ability to pay into its wait list admission process.) “Let yourself fall in love with another school who has accepted you,” she says.

Here is the outlook for acceptance and financial aid at seven colleges that have historically put thousands of students on wait lists and accepted an unusually high number of them.

College Number of students wait-listed in 2014 % of 2014 wait-listed applicants who agreed to stay on the wait list and were accepted Outlook for 2016 Effect on financial aid
Marquette University 5,187 45% Wait-listed applicants can send new grades and letter of recommendations. Has already accepted about 27% of students on wait list. None, and need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.
Marist College 4,286 54% Expects to accept up to 1,500 wait-listed students. About 30% to 40% of those offered a place on the wait list will accept the offer. None, but need for financial aid is one of many factors in admission decisions.
University of Connecticut 4,107 80% Expects 2016 to follow pattern of recent years. None, and need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.
Miami University 3,321 67% Uncertain. In 2015, Miami accepted no one from its wait list. Awards depend on remaining financial aid budget. Need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.
Stony Brook University, State University of New York 3,271 44% Expects smaller wait this year. Last year accepted only 100 students from the wait list. None, and need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.
University of California, Irvine 3,260 79% Expects larger wait list this year. Uncertain about acceptance rate. None, and need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.
The Ohio State University 1,397 100% Expects larger wait list this year. Uncertain about acceptance rate. Awards depend on remaining financial aid budget. Need for aid doesn’t affect acceptance.

Sources: Peterson’s, MONEY reporting

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