The College Waitlist: You're Not Getting In

Cornell waitlisted 2,998 last year ... and took none of them
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2012 11:56 AM CDT
The College Waitlist: You're Not Getting In
Waitlisted? Yeah, good luck with that.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(Newser) – "Waitlisted" is basically a synonym for "rejected," at least according to the Wall Street Journal, which today takes a look at the likelihood of college applicants actually getting off the waitlist. Among its burst-your-bubble stats: Cornell ended up accepting a grand total of zero of the 2,998 students on its waitlist last year; Carnegie Mellon took six of 5,003. Not all elite schools' stats are quite that bleak; Harvard (which gave the OK to a record-low of 5.9% of applicants this year) took 31 off the waitlist last year, though it wouldn't reveal how big that list was.

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The Journal explains that the waitlists are so huge in part because many schools want to seem oh-so-exclusive by giving a place to fewer students on the first go, but still retain a nice, varied pool of back-ups. Another factor: mom and dad. If you're related to a donor or alumni, you may get a "courtesy spot." A few schools have been trying to reduce the size of waitlists, and the Journal points to Stanford as example; it cut its list from 1,078 to 789 this year. But its dean of undergrad admissions offers some sobering perspective: Comparing this year to last, "it's a million to one instead of a billion to one that you're going to get it." (Read more waitlist stories.)

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