April 8, 2010
By Brooke Huestis
After the most competitive year ever for college applicants, the number of students being placed on college waitlists has gone up significantly. Although Penn’s list shrunk this year, it is still one of the largest reported.
While most Ivy League schools have not released their waitlist numbers, those that have reported them showed substantial increases in the number of applicants placed on the list.
Penn’s waitlist decreased by about 500 spots this year, bringing the total number of students waitlisted to slightly over 3,000, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda.
Traditionally, Penn has accepted students off of the waitlist primarily in May and June.
Princeton University placed 1,451 students on their waitlist for the class of 2014 – an increase from last year’s 1,331.
Yale University’s rose to 932 from 769, while Harvard University chose not to disclose their numbers.
Stanford University’s list is at 998, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s went up 59 percent. MIT reported placing 722 on the list, compared to 455 last year.
Furda said he thought Penn “went out a little too heavy” with the waitlist last year, explaining the reason for decreasing the size this year. The waitlist is a way to “send a signal that you’ve done everything right” to a student, he said, but there simply isn’t enough room for everyone.
In comparing Penn’s numbers to those of other institutions, Furda explained that the numbers depend on what he called a college’s “waitlist philosophy.” Penn’s waitlist is a way to still accept students if others choose not to enroll, as well as a means to acknowledge an applicant’s accomplishments.
Educational consultant and admissions strategist Steven Goodman called waitlists colleges’ “insurance policies,” since they can accept students at any point in the summer to fill up empty spots.
As well as being beneficial to colleges, Goodman said waitlists also benefit the students if they are “psychologically prepared” for possibly having to change their plans or be rejected.
Goodman said the increase seen in waitlists at most colleges is a result of a highly competitive year, which means “yields will be very unpredictable.” He said he does not believe that more students will decline spots on the waitlist given the increased numbers, even though the chances of getting off of the list are reduced.
His advice to high school seniors is to “take an offer and stay on the waitlist, though percentage of acceptances will go down.”
Wharton freshman Fred Law, who was waitlisted at Penn and several peer schools, said he stayed on the list because Penn had always been his top choice.
“I found out in mid-May,” he said. “I expected the decision to come later so it was enough time.”
Even if he had seen an increase in waitlists comparable to this year’s, Law said his decision would have been the same.
“An increase would have been slightly worrying … I would have stayed on the waitlist regardless,” he said.