Worried about the wait-list?

Decisions have been released and high school seniors are trying to decide where to hopefully unpack next fall. Some were waiting to visit colleges once they were accepted and now find themselves having to make a decision about where to spend the next four years of their lives without having the opportunity to visit and compare.

Others find themselves in limbo, in college parlance that means the wait-list. They need to deposit at one of the colleges where they were accepted, but they are very interested in one or two or three of the colleges that put them on the wait-list.

2020 is different on so many levels. But the response to Coronavirus is going to make it a particularly unusual year. Many families will want to keep their freshman closer to home, others will not be willing to fork over $20 -$30,000 in tuition for first semester when the students may be sleeping in their own bedrooms and taking online classes. So the “yield” – the percentage of students who accept their offer of admission –  is expected to be different from past “normal” years. Public institutions, where tuition is far less expensive, are expected to have much higher than normal yields and private schools are more likely to go to their wait-list to fill in their class. College and university enrollment managers whose job is to predict and manage enrollment anticipate that international students will be more reticent to journey to the United States due to our more recent dealings with the Covid 19 pandemic.

Yield rates have been steadily dropping. According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), a decade ago the average yield rate was 48.7% and last year it was 33.6%. So, it was already a rather unpredictable environment and then Coronavirus decided to rear its head. This is where the wait-list will clearly come into play. NACAC’s survey demonstrated that 43% of colleges use wait-lists, an increase from previous years.

If you have been wait-listed, you need to notify the college or university that you are interested in remaining on the wait-list. It is fine to agree to stay on multiple wait-lists, but you must make other plans and deposit somewhere else. Wait-list acceptances are determined by the yield, so if a school’s yield decreases, then acceptances off the wait-list will increase. Encourage your friends to notify every school where they were accepted, but are choosing not to attend, so that schools can start inviting students off the wait-list.

This is a tricky time. Many students are also contemplating taking a gap year which may mean working, volunteering, traveling, interning, job-shadowing, creating a new product or service, etc. Given all the unknowns, including whether or not students will actually be able to on campus in the fall, it’s worthy of considering.


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.comwww.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com