April 12, 2011
Veronique Davis considers herself a fairly superstitious person — especially when it comes to college admissions.
Ever since she submitted applications to 11 colleges in December, Davis — a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles — has avoided wearing apparel from schools to which she has not yet been accepted.
Though Penn remains Davis’ top choice, she will have to wait a bit longer if she wants to don a Quaker logo in the fall.
Davis, a College of Arts and Sciences applicant, is one of 2,400 students who were placed on the waitlist  for the Class of 2015. While Davis said she would come to Penn “in a heartbeat” if given the opportunity, she faces some stiff competition.
This year, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said he is expecting around 60 percent of students to remain on the waitlist. If initial yield rates are near what he expects, about 55 students could be offered a spot in Penn’s incoming class by the beginning of July.
If these numbers hold true, the waitlist acceptance rate would be less than 4 percent.
Davis, however, is not letting those odds get to her.
“I fell in love with Penn immediately after I first saw it,” Davis said. “For me, Penn was definitely the platform I used to compare all of my others schools to.”
After Davis received a likely letter from Dartmouth College in mid-March, she said she was more confident that she would hear good news from Penn on decision day. But when she saw her waitlist status, the news hit hard.
“I saw that first line on the letter [from Penn], and I immediately started crying,” Davis said. A few hours later, “I filled out the waitlist form and started thinking of what I could do to make my application stronger.”
Furda said the Admissions Office asks waitlist candidates “to communicate to us their continued interest in Penn.” Should Penn go to the waitlist this year, he added, a “vast majority” of candidates will be informed that there is no room for them in the Class of 2015 by the second week in May.
“We don’t want to put the students we know won’t be accepted through a process that is going to be a waste of energy,” Furda said.
Penn generally tries to finish taking students off the waitlist by late June or early July.
Davis said she is currently considering offers from Dartmouth and the University of Southern California. Regardless of her situation at Penn, she will have to make a deposit at one of those schools by May 1.
However, Davis admitted, “Until I know about Penn, it will be difficult for me to feel like an official student at either of those places.”
For Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, students like Davis should approach the waitlist “under the psychological assumption that it’s not going work out in their favor, given the unpredictable nature of the waitlist from year to year.”
Taylor added that most admissions officers “will only take a student off the waitlist if they are 100-percent sure that the student will attend their college.”
Tim Lear, director of college counseling at The Pingry School in Martinsville, N.J., said a good way for students to tackle the waitlist is to revisit schools where they have already been accepted — something he feels may make them more likely to think twice about remaining on a waitlist.
“It’s a shame when you see students celebrating the ‘what if’ rather than the ‘what is,’ and I think that waitlists keep that mindset going,” Lear said. “The waitlist can prolong the finish line by quite a bit, and that’s tough for a senior who is in their last few months of high school.”
Davis, however, remains set in her convictions.
“If I’m accepted, I’m going to be ready to drop everything and head over to Penn,” she said. “I don’t like that the wait is so long, but if it works out it’s going to be worth it.”