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Wait-List Game Gets Bigger in College Admissions

Original post made by Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto, on Apr 4, 2009

Spring Break just ended and April is here. That means for many of our high schoolers and their families that it's College Time -- from campus visits to admission and rejection letters such as those showing up on Palo Alto High School's "rejection wall" bulletin board.

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Comments (6)

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Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:01 am

Paul -

It's confusing. What does "committed" mean in the context of accepting an admission offer? I.e. what do you actually sign other than an intent to attend?

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:19 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.


Sorry that you find it confusing. I think my experience with my two college age children is pretty typical. Let's elaborate a bit.

Many students apply to a number of different colleges, and are offered admission at several to which they applied. Obviously, each student only can attend one of the schools to which they have been offered admission. So "committing," which takes place after the offers of admission are tendered and has a deadline of the end of April, is the process of the student choosing the specific school that he/she plans to attend.

There is a document that is part of the admission package which the student fills out and sends back, indicating whether he/she plans to attend (is committing), or does not accept of admission offer.

When a student turns down an offer of admission, it means that there could be a slot that opens up for a wait listed student. This gets a little tricky, because just about all colleges offer more admissions than they can actually accomodate, since they know that not everyone offered admission actually will accept. So, as a hypothetical example, a prominent university in Northern California may offer admission to 4000 high school seniors to fill a class of 2500, because they know from experience that only 50% of those admitted actually will commit to their school. The balance will decline the offer and instead go to prominent colleges elsewhere.

In this scenario, our prominent Northern California university has 2000 students who will enroll, and from the wait list, they offer admission to fill up the remaining 500 slots.

For persepctive, my understanding is that roughly 125 students in this year's freshman class at Harvard were admitted off the wait list.

I hope that helps clear up any confusion you may have.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

DO you lose your deposit if you withdraw an acceptance (in order to accept a sudden offer from another college, off their waitlist)?
Thanks for the info

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

You do lose your deposit, which varies in amount but can be several hundred dollars.

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Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I see, thank you for elaborating. There is really no commitment involved in "committing"; just a deposit on an intention to attend.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm

It is really hard to guess how many colleges to apply to-

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