The Ivy Coach Daily

March 27, 2023

What Does ’Waitlisted’ Mean in College Admissions?

This is a Washington University in St. Louis building, with two flags flying overhead.
33.9% of waitlisted candidates to Washington University in St. Louis’ Class of 2025 got in.

Did you recently receive a waitlist decision? If so, you were neither accepted nor denied. Instead, you’re in the middle ground. You’re in limbo! So what does it all mean, and what can you do to optimize your chances of admission off the waitlist?

What Is a College Waitlist?

A college waitlist is a group of students who could earn admission if a lower-than-anticipated percentage of admitted students choose to enroll. In short, if a college’s yield falls below expectations, it will want to fill any vacant seat to meet its institutional needs.

Most highly selective universities do not rank their waitlisted candidates. Thus if college admissions officers notice fewer than expected engineering students enrolled, they might admit an engineering student off the waitlist. Likewise, if college admissions officers discern fewer than expected psychology students enrolled, they might admit a psychology student off the waitlist.

And while there are some years when colleges reach deep down their waitlists (like for the Class of 2024 after so many students opted for gap years due to the pandemic), there are other years when some colleges accept no students from their waitlists.

Do Waitlisted Students Get In?

While some believe that a waitlist is akin to a rejection, it’s not the case. In fact, if students play their cards right after being offered a spot on the waitlist, they have a genuine shot of earning admission.

College Waitlist Acceptance Rates

Below are the waitlist acceptance rates for the Class of 2025 for America’s top national universities of 2023. If a college is not listed, like Harvard University, it didn’t report waitlist data to The Common Data Set.

College/University2023 US News & World Report Best National Universities RankingClass of 2025 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%1,2651,000150
Stanford University#313.8%7505808
University of Pennsylvania#74.4%3,9332,753121
California Institute of Technology#94.3%31223510
Duke University#10


381
Dartmouth College#12
2,6692,1200
Washington University in St. Louis#1533.9%
2,696915
Cornell University#170.4%7,7465,80024
University of California, Los Angeles#203.3%16,97911,169367
Carnegie Mellon University#220.7%8,7925,31935
Georgetown University#221.1%3,2772,54329
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor#250.5%17,80513,06368

Below are the waitlist acceptance rates for the Class of 2025 for America’s top liberal arts colleges of 2023. If a college is not listed, like Amherst College, it didn’t report waitlist data to The Common Data Set.

College/UniversityUS News Best Liberal Arts Colleges 2023 RankClass of 2025 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%2,3719291
Swarthmore College#4

0
Wellesley College#5
2,5781,30444
Bowdoin College#6


10
Carleton College#6
1,36758011
Claremont McKenna College#9
85053811
Washington and Lee University#11
2,2071,15011
Vassar College#13
1,52663496
Barnard College#18
2,096
258
Haverford College#18
1,33174121
University of Richmond#18
3,8918869
Wesleyan University#18
3,5852,03110
Bates College#25
2,4731,2452

What To Do After Being Waitlisted

If you’ve been waitlisted, contact Ivy Coach so we can give you the game plan to offer you the best shot possible at admission. Waitlisted students need to do more than check the box that they wish to join the waitlist. They must effectively demonstrate interest, to show rather than tell the school they want to attend.

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