Inhumanity of Waitlists

Being waitlisted for college admissions prolongs hope, colleges banking on applicants’ desire to be admitted. And, students offered an “extended” waitlist option weeks after the enrollment deadline, which can seem like a further complication in an already opaque admissions process, can be particularly frustrated. 

“Extended” waitlists can further dispel the pretense that the admissions process intends to match candidates who can both contribute to and benefit from the intellectual liveliness of the academic community. Essentially, waitlists are strategically used to meet the colleges’ enrollment numbers and financial goals.

Jim Rawlins, the associate vice chancellor of enrollment management at UC San Diego, explains the mechanics behind this strategy:

And we need to leave ourselves enough cushion, so what we’ll typically do leading up to May 1 [when students need to confirm their enrollment in a college] is make the number of offers [acceptance letters] so that if things go like we predict they will, we’ll come in at or maybe even a little below where we need to be [in terms of the targeted enrollment for Fall]. And then that’s how a waitlist lets us kind of sneak our way up the rest of the way. 

EdSource in April 2023

Mr. Rawlins acknowledges that after the enrollment deadline, admissions officers selectively admit students from the waitlist to meet their precise enrollment needs.

Moreover, with ongoing issues in delayed financial aid notifications due to FAFSA complications, some college admissions officers have extended enrollment deadlines to as late as June 1, 2024—only prolonging the uncertainty and anxiety for waitlisted students, leaving them in limbo about their admission status for longer than typical admissions cycles.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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