I got a pretty angry email yesterday – upset that I notified a student about their waitist status TOO EARLY. This was a first for me. Granted, the student was denied, and I suspect that was the true source of ire, but it was fascinating to me why the author felt I was so awful. The email asserted that anyone who accepted a spot on the waitlist and was willing to wait should be left on that waitlist until the last possible moment.
Up to now, I and most of my colleagues have attempted to do the opposite. This year many schools have been a lot less successful, but in general our assumption has been that our applicants deserve to know whether or not they have a reasonable chance of getting in as soon as possible. In other words, once I know that I have spaces in my class filled, I generally let the waitlist know and encourage them to look elsewhere. This includes, at Mason and at most schools, having more students committed than we anticipate enrolling. That’s right – we assume some students will not show up even when we’ve got money and commitment forms saying they will. We call this “melt” – as in part of the class melts away over the summer. In other words, even if some students drop at the last minute, that doesn’t mean any space for students on the waitlist.
It’s always possible, of course, that some calamity will occur and suddenly an institution will have way more space than anticipated. In my twenty or so years in admissions, however, I have yet to hear about that happening to a school after the waitlist was released. In fact, that explains why so many colleges and universities are holding on to waitlists longer and longer.
So here’s my point: Pining away over a waitlist takes away from your opportunities to be truly excited about some other great school. As I keep saying, there are LOTS of great schools, and in general most schools are pretty great. Don’t let marketing hype turn your first year of college into a dissapointment and instead embrace the schools that have offered you admission. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still hope, or get excited if you get admitted from a waitlist…just don’t put a college admissions office totally in charge of your happiness. Be seeing you.