Deferred or Denied? Learn about Ivy Coach's PostMortem + Letter of Continued Interest

The Ivy Coach Daily

March 28, 2023

What Are Your Chances of Getting In to College After Being Waitlisted?

What Are Your Chances Of Getting In To College After Being Waitlisted
Were you waitlisted at Harvard? Over the last 30 years, slightly less than 40% of applicants who first come to Ivy Coach after being waitlisted by the Ivy League institution have earned admission.

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.

Your Chances of Admission After Being Waitlisted

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 2025, 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 Statistics

Among the top 25-ranked national universities and top 25-ranked liberal arts colleges in the 2023 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 2021-2022 Common Data Set.

If a school is not listed, like Harvard University, it did not publish its waitlist data in The Common Data Set. 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.

College/University2023 US News & World Report Best National Universities RankingClass of 2025 Waitlist Acceptance RateClass of 2025 Ivy Coach Waitlist Acceptance RateNumber of Students Waitlisted to the Class of 2025Number of Students Who Accepted a Place on Waitlist to Class of 2025Number of Students Admitted Off Waitlist to Class of 2025
Princeton University#115%66.7%1,2651,000150
Stanford University#313.8%100%7505808
University of Pennsylvania#74.4%75%3,9332,753121
California Institute of Technology#94.3%N/A31223510
Duke University#10

Dartmouth College#12
Washington University in St. Louis#1533.9%33.3%
Cornell University#170.4%33.3%7,7465,80024
University of California, Los Angeles#203.3%100%16,97911,169367
Carnegie Mellon University#220.7%33.3%8,7925,31935
Georgetown University#221.1%100%3,2772,54329
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor#250.5%0%17,80513,06368

Top Liberal Arts Colleges

College/UniversityUS News Best Liberal Arts Colleges 2023 RankClass of 2025 Waitlist Acceptance RateClass of 2025 Ivy Coach Waitlist Acceptance RateNumber of Students Waitlisted to the Class of 2025Number of Students Who Accepted a Place on Waitlist to Class of 2025Number of Students Admitted Off Waitlist to Class of 2025
Williams College#10.1%N/A2,3719291
Swarthmore College#40%Did Not Go to Waitlist

Wellesley College#5
Bowdoin College#6

Carleton College#6
Claremont McKenna College#9
Washington and Lee University#111%
Vassar College#13
Barnard College#18
Haverford College#18
University of Richmond#18
Wesleyan University#18

Bates College#25

A Prediction for Class of 2027 Waitlists

At Ivy Coach, we’ve got a highly accurate crystal ball. And our crystal ball hereby forecasts shorter waitlists for the Class of 2027. 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.

Ivy Coach’s Game Plan for Waitlisted Students

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 free consultation form and indicate that you’ve been waitlisted. We’ll then be in touch to outline Ivy Coach’s services.

You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s college counseling,
fill out our free consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

Get Started