By now most of you have heard from the colleges that have regular decision notifications and those that have deferred you. Hopefully, your financial aid applications have been completed, and you will begin hearing about possible need based aid soon if not already. Then you will have about one month to make a decision! Please keep me posted as you are notified!
The May 1st deadline notification deadline gives closure to the process for most of you—and remember, if you have paid a deposit to a college that you decide against attending, you can get a refund if you notify them in writing by that date (except U of Michigan).
However, there is always the matter of the dreaded “wait list.”
College admissions officers are tasked with creating a class that is a target size—often dictated by their on-campus housing. Generally, about twice the number of students they hope to see on campus the next fall are given offers of admission. There is a complicated formula they have used over the years and it generally works pretty well. About half of the students accepted will decide to attend and the process works.
However, this is an art, not a science. There are years when more students plan to attend than the college was expecting (read: high yield) Once the college has tendered an acceptance they do not rescind it because they end up enrolling more students than they have housing for. I have been to campuses where local hotels had to be rented for the overflow of first year students. There are other years when they aren’t sure they will actually fill their target quota, hence the wait list.
Since nearly all colleges have more applicants than they can take, some colleges may offer qualified students who are not quite “as” admissible as some others a spot on the “wait list” and if space becomes available they may end up being accepted. This may not happen before July, however. And it is possible that out of 500 people on the wait list they could take 5 or 10.
In other words, the wait list is set up to make sure the college reaches its target yield and is not particularly student-friendly—unless you can “feel better” about not actually being “rejected” by that college! Additionally, there are several colleges that wait list students who have not shown sufficient/any “demonstrated interest” or who wait list students who are clearly admissible and they suspect will probably go elsewhere. In these cases, scheduling a campus visit, or contacting the college to let them know this is really your first choice and you WILL attend if admitted (assuming this is true) may possibly move you off the wait list to the admitted list. If this is the college of your dreams and you are ok with going through graduation without actually committing to a college with your whole heart, the wait list could offer some hope.
If you really want closure, however, you all will have concrete choices to make—and if you followed our advice of having EVERY college to which you applied be a “first choice,” May 1st will provide relief and will energize you for the future!
If you can, you might want to spend some of spring break visiting colleges where you have been admitted—there is no substitute for experiencing a campus first hand. Often students choose to wait to visit (especially if there is some distance to travel) until they know they have been admitted. Also watch for the special “admitted student days” where you also can see who your fellow classmates might be.
Meanwhile, use the time during this “lull” to reflect, to plan and to spend quality time with your families. No matter what happens, next fall life will change for all of you. Look around and revel in the friendships you have forged over the years. You will never regret this!
Please keep in touch—and be safe next week!
Patricia Bostwick, MA, LPC
Director of College Counseling