Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "Netherland" of College Admission Decisions

We have officially entered the season of regular admission returns.

April 1st is right around the corner.

Which means that for our 84 seniors there are a 164 decisions coming their way


by mail

or email.

There will be thick letters.

And thin letters.

Emails that begin with "Congratulations on being selected to join the Class of 2015."

And emails that begin with "After reviewing your application, we are sorry to inform you..."

For some there will be celebration dinners.

For others there will cartons of Maggie Moo ice cream to spoon away the disappointment.

And then there will be this odd letter and email.

Where you discover that just when you thought the admission process was over,

wrapped up,

done -

you realize that you face another lengthy process.

Another road map.

Another set of sign posts.

Another journey fraught with great uncertainty.

We're talking about the "netherland" of the wait list world.

Let's first talk about the facts.

Wait Lists are the growing trend at many competitive colleges.

Admissions experts anticipate 10% increases at many selective schools.

Last year schools like Duke, Wash U, and Stanford had wait lists exceeding 3,000. (click here to read The Times article on this topic)

Real encouraging, right?

So why the long wait list?

Colleges are doing this to buffer themselves against a possible onslaught of "no thank yous" from accepted students.

To say the least, this is a high anxiety time for colleges.

Who will yield?

Who will take money over prestige?

Who will stay in-state?

By May 1, deposit day, many colleges will know.

That's when they will see the gaps between

the number accepted,

the number enrolled,

and the number of vacancies.

It's at that point that the wait list game is on.

(Yes, I know I'm switching metaphors.)

It's overtime.

Like the Thunder-Golden State game last night.

If you assume the game is lost, you can't win.

If you keep playing - hard and smart - you may have a good chance.

So take heart.

Again most selective colleges in the country will admit students from the wait list every year in numbers ranging from half a dozen to well over 100.

Last year, for example, Harvard pulled 200 off their wait list. That triggered a domino effect among other selective schools. As a result, wait list action was hot all over the US.

So how do you put yourself in the best position to win OT?

My suggestions.
  • Make sure to X the box or click the link that will allow you to indicate to the college that you want to pursue a fall admit thru the wait list program.

  • Email your admission officer a short paragraph. Admission officers won't admit it, but they are exhausted. Brevity, then, is a virtue. In your email, let the admission officer know why you really want X school. Highlight 2-3 specific things you love about X school. Add 2-3 winter/spring highlights. From academics. To athletics. From fine arts. To study abroad opportunities over spring break.
  • If you have not interviewed with the college, ask to see if you could schedule a brief phone interview or Skype interview with the Oklahoma rep.
  • Consider making a campus visit if you have not already and meet in person with the Oklahoma rep.
  • Ask your college counselor to contact the admission officer to advocate for you.
  • If there has been a question about financial aid, be clear about what your family can afford. Your need for assistance could well be a determining factor.

I was reading today from Peter Van Buskirk's book Winning the Admission Game. On Wait List, he writes:

"Contrary to popular belief, most Wait Lists are not usually ranked numerically...Admission committees constantly search for new information upon which they can base an acceptance. The key then is to provide new information...Most importantly, you need to stay on the radar screens of the schools that have placed you on the WL. Make sure they know you are available and ready to accept an offer of admission. Continue to show your interest without becoming a pest....Finally, don't become so preoccupied with the WL situation that you lost track of your more immediate options. You don't want to talk yourself out of another school that you really like."

Good advice.

And insight.

In the end there is no guarantee that you will get off the waist list.

But for most, if not all of you, there are thick envelopes and "Congratulation" emails that you need to revisit to remind yourself that you have excellent options. Remind yourself why you chose those schools. And remember: ultimately you want to end up where you will be validated for what you can bring to that school community.