The Ivy Coach Daily

May 16, 2024

What Are Your Chances of Getting Off the Waitlist?

What Are Your Chances Of Getting In To College After Being Waitlisted

Previously Published on March 28, 2023:

Many students believe that being waitlisted is akin to being rejected. But they’re wrong — because if students approach the waitlist process correctly, they have a genuine shot of earning admission. To concede defeat after being waitlisted is tantamount to taking a knee at the one-yard line. Who does that?

Why Do Colleges Waitlist Students?

America’s elite colleges waitlist students to play it safe. After all, while a school’s yield in prior years is a solid predictor of the school’s yield for this year, admissions officers can never predict with certainty the percentage of admitted students who will choose to attend. They thus place a group of students in limbo to meet their institutional needs by filling the remaining seats if the school’s yield falls short of expectations.

How Hard Is It to Get Off the College Waitlist?

As a rule of thumb, around 10% of students who are waitlisted at an elite universities will ultimately earn admission. This, of course, can vary from year to year.

There are years when some colleges, like Dartmouth College for the Class of 2027, don’t turn to their waitlists because they don’t need to fill seats. And there are other years when colleges go deep down their waitlists to complete their incoming classes — as schools did for the Class of 2024 after so many students chose to take gap years due to the pandemic. The schools needed to fill the vacant seats of the students who deferred their admission.

College Waitlist Acceptance Rates

Among the top 25-ranked national universities and top 25-ranked liberal arts colleges in the 2024 US News & World Report rankings, the following are the overall waitlist figures and the waitlist acceptance rates for Ivy Coach’s students.

The overall waitlist figures stem from the data these schools have individually reported to the 2023-2024 Common Data Set.

If “Not Yet Released” is indicated, the school has not published its waitlist data in The Common Data Set for the 2023-2024 cycle (more of the top liberal arts colleges have thus far reported compared to the top national universities). If only some numbers are reported, those are the only figures the school chose to include. Some institutions, like West Point, Annapolis, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, do not have waitlists.

Top Universities

College/University2024 US News Rank (“Best National Universities”)Class of 2027 Waitlist Acceptance RateIvy Coach’s 30+ Year Waitlist Acceptance Rate
Princeton University#1Not Yet Released40%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#2Not Yet Released40%
Harvard University#3Not Yet Released39%
Stanford University#315.02%38%
Yale University#5Not Yet Released40%
University of Pennsylvania#6Not Yet Released50%
California Institute of Technology#7Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Duke University#7Not Yet Released43%
Brown University#9Not Yet Released40%
Johns Hopkins University#9Not Yet Released50%
Northwestern University#9Not Yet Released42%
Columbia University#12Not Yet Released41%
Cornell University#125.87%40%
University of Chicago#12Not Yet Released57%
University of California, Berkeley#15Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
University of California, Los Angeles#15Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Rice University#17Not Yet Released33%
Dartmouth College#180%50%
Vanderbilt University#18140 Students Admitted (# of Waitlisted Students Not Published)25%
University of Notre Dame#20Not Yet Released44%
University of Michigan#21Not Yet Released46%
Georgetown University#22Not Yet Released37%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill#22Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Carnegie Mellon University#24Not Yet Released33%
Emory University#24Not Yet Released40%
University of Virginia#24Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Washington University in St. Louis#24Not Yet Released33%

Top Liberal Arts Colleges

College/University2024 US News Rank (“Best Liberal Arts Colleges”)Class of 2027 Waitlist Acceptance RateIvy Coach’s 30+ Year Waitlist Acceptance Rate
Wiliams College#10.47%25%
Amherst College#27.85%20%
United States Naval Academy#3Not Applicable (No Waitlist)Not Applicable (No Waitlist)
Pomona College#410.56%100%
Swarthmore College#423 Students Admitted (# of Waitlisted Students Not Published)100%
Wellesley College#41.61%Insufficient Data
United States Air Force Academy#7Not Applicable (No Waitlist)Not Applicable (No Waitlist)
United States Military Academy at West Point#8Not Applicable (No Waitlist)Not Applicable (No Waitlist)
Bowdoin College#929 Students Admitted (# of Waitlisted Students Not Published)100%
Carleton College#9Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Barnard College#11Not Yet Released62%
Claremont McKenna College#1111.11%Insufficient Data
Grinnell College#11Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Middlebury College#11Not Yet Released47%
Wesleyan University#1114.79%Insufficient Data
Davidson College#161.97%Insufficient Data
Hamilton College#163.28%Insufficient Data
Harvey Mudd College#1614.04%Insufficient Data
Smith College#16Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Vassar College#1611.98%Insufficient Data
Colgate University#21Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Haverford College#21Not Yet ReleasedInsufficient Data
Washington and Lee University#210%Insufficient Data
Bates College#247.95%Insufficient Data
Colby College#25Not PublishedInsufficient Data
University of Richmond#2594.44%Insufficient Data

A Prediction for Class of 2028 Waitlists

At Ivy Coach, we’ve got a highly accurate crystal ball. And our crystal ball hereby forecasts shorter waitlists for the Class of 2028. Unlike over the last couple of years under the halo of the pandemic, there’s less uncertainty this year.

Colleges will not need to place so many students in limbo when there’s less uncertainty. As such, a place on an expectedly shorter waitlist is more meaningful than in years past.

What to Do If You’ve Been Waitlisted

So what’s Ivy Coach’s game plan for waitlisted students? It’s a two-step process that goes as follows:

  1. PostMortem application review. We need to identify how a student presented their case for admission to the school or schools that placed them in limbo so their story remains consistent — albeit more powerful.
  2. Letter of Continued Interest. We brainstorm and revise a compelling letter to the institution, one filled with no brags or updates.

College Waitlist FAQ

Should I call the admissions office to express my continued interest in attending?

No, admissions officers don’t wish to speak with you over the phone. Submit a compelling Letter of Continued Interest and then ask your school counselor to make an advocacy call, armed with how you positioned yourself in your letter.

Any other contact with the admissions office will risk rendering you a gadfly. Don’t annoy them! It will only undercut your case for admission off the waitlist.

If I’ve been waitlisted to several schools, should I submit the same letter to all of them?

No, each letter must be tailored to the respective institution. If you submit a generic letter to each school that waitlisted you, you’re unlikely to earn admission off any of these waitlists.

In our experience, students who are waitlisted at multiple schools have an excellent shot of earning admission off one or more waitlists — but only if they play their cards right.

Should I do something off the wall after being waitlisted, like pitching a tent outside the admissions office?

No, these sorts of ideas backfire. No bus ads. No tents. No phone calls from politicians. Just submit a compelling Letter of Continued Interest.

Do colleges ever admit students off their waitlists after they say their incoming classes are closed?

Yes, we’ve had students earn admission off waitlists months after they’ve already notified students their incoming classes are closed. One of our students once moved out of their Duke dorm room when they learned they got off the Harvard waitlist. It’s why we always encourage waitlisted students to answer their phones!

Getting Started with Ivy Coach for Waitlist Assistance

If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s assistance with optimizing your case for admission after being placed in waitlist limbo, fill out our complimentary consultation form and indicate that you’ve been waitlisted. We’ll then be in touch to outline Ivy Coach’s services.

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