Elite Colleges Take More Students from Waiting Lists

This was a brutal year for admissions to top colleges. The applicant pool was larger than ever before. Harvard and Princeton did away with their early decision programs. Many elite colleges, including the Ivies, Lafayette, Bowdoin, and Stanford, announced generous new financial aid policies.

And many colleges increased the size of their waiting lists, in part because of the uncertainty these changes wrought in admissions offices at these schools.

The result is that many colleges are taking many more students from their waiting lists than in the past.

Here’s a snippet from a recent article about waiting lists from the Wall Street Journal:

The wait-list bonanza isn’t because colleges have more slots available for students — in fact, overall enrollment levels at many schools remained the same as last year.

Instead, colleges this year faced more uncertainty in the applications process. For one thing, there’s a growing population of high-school seniors — many of whom submit applications to multiple schools. But for highly selective schools, what really affected the process was the move by two Ivy League schools to end their early-admissions programs. Also at play were policy changes that made more financial aid available to middle- and upper-class students.

So while this is good news for some students on waiting lists, keep in mind that the numbers are still quite small. Here are the numbers that will pulled off the waiting list at some schools:

University of Wisconsin-Madison: This year: 800; Last year 6
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: This year 300; Last year 226
Boston College: This year 250; Last year 117
Harvard University: This year 200: Last year 50
Princeton University: This year 90; Last yaer 47
Georgetown University: This year 80; Last year 29
Yale University: This year 46; Last year 50
Hamilton College: This year: 36; Last year: 24
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This year 35; Last year: 20
Johns Hopkins University: This year: 30; Last year: 86
Swarthmore College: This year: 22; Last year: 42
Pomona College: This year: 16; Last year: 17
University of Chicago: This year: 10 to 15; Last year: 0
Stanford University: This year: 0; Last year: 0
University of Virginia: This year: 0; Last year: 150


Mark Montgomery
College Counselor


Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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  1. My daughter was placed on Harvard’s waiting list for 2009. She applied also to Boston University and was admitted to BU Honors Program but still HU is her 1st choice. She sent Waiting List acceptance and a letter with updated information to HU. We are from Puerto Rico with our 1st language the Spanish, her SAT was good (around 2000) but not as some read. What do you think of her chances to get admitted?

    Thanks you

  2. Dear Miguel,
    Statistically, her chances are not great. But I know nothing about your daughter, so I cannot speak specifically as to your daughter’s chances. She is not a statistic, and she will come off the list depending on who she is, what she offers as a candidate, and whether Harvard is looking for someone with her talents to fill a slot of someone who declines Harvard’s offer of admission. I wish I could be more specific, but I cannot offer specifics without knowing more about your daughter.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, and best of luck to you and your daughter.

  3. I am a parent of an African American girl. She is interested in sciences. We live on the east coast. Would you know if there is a list of colleges which give prefernce to minority women who are seeking to do medicine or science in college?

  4. Hello, Joyce.
    There are no such lists, to my knowledge. The idea of “preferences” for minorities is dicey, and the Supreme Court has heard cases regarding “quotas” or “set asides” for minorities.

    And I don’t think you really mean to say “preferences”: you don’t want your daughter to be judged by the color of her skin. Rather, my guess is that you want her to be judged by her academic abilities and the “content of her character.” Right?

    That said, nearly all college in the US seek qualified women who are interested in the sciences, and most colleges seek qualified minorities. Your daughter, therefore, has two “brownie points” working in her favor.

    Hope this is helpful.

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