Waiting lists are a part of life.  Restaurants.  Bars.  Library books. Tickets to a show.  College.  And in all these cases but the last one, if you have a little patience, it usually works out. Thousands of students are sitting in the waiting room.  Will they get out?

Waiting list season has begun.  Thousands of students have been invited to join the waiting list at schools, hoping that some spots will open up for them.  A look at the numbers in this table suggests that they are likely wasting their time, because at most selective schools very few students get off the waiting list.

We used the Common Data Set for students who began freshman year in the fall of 2017.  There are a lot of schools that do not share data on waiting lists.  We include not just how many students were waitlisted and how many got in, but also how many were offered spots on the waiting list, as well as acceptance rates for those on the waiting list.

We have some more thoughts on the waiting list after the table, including why schools have waiting lists at all and what students can do, if anything to improve their odds if they are on a waiting list. As with all information from the Common Data Set, we advise caution with the data. We suspect that some schools reporting 0 students were admitted from the waiting list made an error in their reporting and are working to confirm the accuracy of that number.

School  Number of Applicants  Admit Rate
Number of applicants offered a place on waiting list Number accepting a place on the waiting list Number of wait-listed students admitted Percent Admitted from Waitlist.
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor          59,886 26.5% 11,094 4,109 468 11.4%
University of California–Santa Cruz          52,975 51.4% 10,378 6,038 2,236 37.0%
University of California-Irvine          85,102 36.5% 9,235 5,291 526 9.9%
Syracuse University          33,099 46.9% 9,023 2,601 1,202 46.2%
Fordham University          45,147 46.4% 9,009 2,600 48 1.8%
University of Miami          30,634 36.7% 8,286 2,373 71 3.0%
University of California–Davis          70,214 43.5% 8,263 2,922 435 14.9%
Baylor University          37,083 38.9% 7,558 1,459 1,349 92.5%
Case Western Reserve University          25,380 33.1% 7,178 4,252 586 13.8%
University of Massachusetts-Amherst          41,922 57.5% 6,736 1,557 44 2.8%
University of California–Santa Barbara          80,319 32.7% 6,650 4,000 960 24.0%
Lehigh University          13,871 25.2% 6,516 2,799 53 1.9%
Boston College          28,454 32.4% 6,477 3,791 16 0.4%
Villanova University          21,112 36.0% 6,276 2,545 211 8.3%
University of Virginia          36,779 27.3% 5,961 3,615 117 3.2%
Cornell University          27,039 22.0% 5,714 3,723 75 2.0%
Carnegie Mellon University          20,497 22.2% 5,609 2,834 4 0.1%
Tulane University          35,622 21.5% 5,596 1,672 0 0.0%
University of California–Riverside          43,682 57.2% 5,499 3,108 321 10.3%
Loyola Marymount University          15,381 52.5% 5,298   7  
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill          40,919 23.7% 5,097 2,339 35 1.5%
Ohio State University–Columbus          47,782 48.1% 5,051 1,283 852 66.4%
Marist College          11,376 42.6% 4,820 887 99 11.2%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute          19,505 43.2% 4,803 2,662 22 0.8%
University of Central Florida          37,693 49.9% 4,801 2,896 53 1.8%
George Washington University          25,488 40.2% 4493 1616 170 10.5%
Boston University          60,825 25.1% 4,399 2,584 7 0.3%
College of William and Mary          14,921 35.9% 4,392 2,355 69 2.9%
Emory University          23,747 22.0% 4,277 2,992 41 1.4%
Georgia Institute of Technology          31,497 23.4% 4,241 2,822 21 0.7%
American University          18,699 29.4% 4,049 609 0 0.0%
Temple University          35,880 56.7% 3,992 950 386 40.6%
University of Vermont          21,991 67.2% 3,988 876 0 0.0%
State University of New York–Stony Brook University          35,313 42.2% 3,778 1,697 68 4.0%
University of California–Berkeley          78,924 15.3% 3760 2445 1340 54.8%
Fairfield University          11,218 60.6% 3,757 1,118 56 5.0%
Virginia Tech          27,423 70.1% 3,485 2,404 0 0.0%
University of Connecticut          35,980 48.8% 3386 1780 148 8.3%
University of Richmond          10,013 33.0% 3,383 1,281 56 4.4%
University of Portland          11,911 61.0% 3321 698 75 10.7%
San Diego State University          60,697 35.2% 3,279 1,630 9 0.6%
University of Rochester          17,069 35.1% 3,203 1,750 6 0.3%
California Polytechnic State University          48,588 34.6% 3,168   15  
University of Delaware          24,456 64.9% 3144 650 195 30.0%
Providence College          11,251 51.5% 3,103 985 7 0.7%
Northwestern University          37,259 9.2% 2,905 1,892 65 3.4%
Bucknell University          10,253 31.1% 2,883 1,301 55 4.2%
Miami University          33,255 62.1% 2,860 604 45 7.5%
Indiana University–Bloomington          41,939 76.0% 2,852 519 210 40.5%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign          38,093 60.1% 2846 2092 350 16.7%
Johns Hopkins University          26,578 12.2% 2752 1747 187 10.7%
Michigan State University          36,143 71.5% 2,687 1,994 530 26.6%
Clemson University          26,242 47.2% 2,649 924 876 94.8%
James Madison University          21,099 75.2% 2,500 1,425 225 15.8%
North Carolina State University          26,859 51.0% 2,479 1,043 7 0.7%
Georgetown University          21,462 15.7% 2,473 1,571 50 3.2%
The College of New Jersey          12,898 47.5% 2,405 597 20 3.4%
Santa Clara University          15,061 53.6% 2,397 1,479 39 2.6%
Franklin & Marshall College            6,720 34.1% 2,335   16  
Skidmore College          10,053 24.5% 2,300 461 60 13.0%
Wesleyan University          12,360 16.3% 2,267 1,233 108 8.8%
Purdue University–West Lafayette          48,912 57.4% 2,235 3,664 94 2.6%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute          10,331 48.5% 2,187 1,093 102 9.3%
Pennsylvania State University–University Park          56,114 50.3% 2,168 1,359 0 0.0%
Elon University            9,623 66.5% 2,117 695 153 22.0%
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh Campus          27,679 59.7% 2,098 767 110 14.3%
Bentley University            8,867 44.2% 2,082 693 0 0.0%
Rice University          18,063 15.9% 2,080 1,328 17 1.3%
Pratt Institute            6,044 49.9% 2,038 2,009 93 4.6%
Wellesley College            5,666 22.1% 2,032 1,153 36 3.1%
Dartmouth College          20,035 10.4% 2,021 1,345 0 0.0%
University of Oklahoma          16,777 68.9% 1,929 1,929 163 8.4%
University of San Diego          14,739 49.8% 1,913 896 3 0.3%
Brandeis University          11,721 34.2% 1,826 668 8 1.2%
Williams College            8,593 14.6% 1,796 673 0 0.0%
Babson College            7,122 24.2% 1,723 681 0 0.0%
University of Tampa          20,495 53.3% 1,720 168 168 100.0%
Lafayette College            8,469 30.8% 1,708 412 111 26.9%
Barnard College            7,716 15.4% 1,703 1,222 51 4.2%
Stevens Institute of Technology            8,335 43.9% 1,672 583 90 15.4%
Muhlenberg College            4,862 48.3% 1666 384 22 5.7%
Reed College            5,652 35.6% 1,659 511 0 0.0%
Kenyon College            5,603 33.8% 1,656 766 38 5.0%
Bates College            5,316 21.9% 1,640 773 7 0.9%
Washington and Lee University            5,455 22.0% 1,634 737 32 4.3%
State University of New York at Binghamton          33,467 40.4% 1,543   374  
George Mason University          18,993 81.3% 1,531 975 70 7.2%
University of Notre Dame          19,564 18.9% 1,508 901 96 10.7%
Tufts University          21,101 14.8% 1,504 635   0.0%
Denison University            7,540 37.2% 1,502 323 55 17.0%
Colgate University            8,542 28.1% 1,500 745 37 5.0%
Colby College            7,593 22.5% 1497 634 42 6.6%
Southern Methodist University          13,128 48.8% 1,423 582 69 11.9%
Furman University            5,002 61.2% 1,412 0 59  
Pepperdine University          11,704 39.8% 1,386 776 2 0.3%
Carleton College            6,499 21.2% 1,315 521 41 7.9%
Hamilton College            5,678 24.2% 1,299 629 33 5.2%
Appalachian State University          14,009 70.0% 1,288   215  
State University of New York–University at Buffalo          28,088 57.4% 1,274 292 0 0.0%
Connecticut College            5,434 38.0% 1,260 543 48 8.8%
Middlebury College            8,909 17.1% 1,259 540 21 3.9%
State University of New York at Geneseo            8,789 72.4% 1,172 451 350 77.6%
Princeton University          31,056 6.4% 1,168 826 101 12.2%
University of Colorado–Boulder          36,149 79.8% 1,159 173 173 100.0%
Haverford College            4,408 20.1% 1,152 483 37 7.7%
Sarah Lawrence College            3,463 53.2% 1,145 576 79 13.7%
Amherst College            9,285 12.9% 1,144 590 60 10.2%
University of Rhode Island          22,667 68.9% 1,134 326 43 13.2%
Grinnell College            5,850 28.9% 1,126 534 12 2.2%
Oberlin College            7,762 33.7% 1,125 752 124 16.5%
College of the Holy Cross            6,622 39.6% 1,109 444 0 0.0%
Yale University          30,236 6.7% 1098 713   0.0%
Occidental College            6,775 41.8% 1,088 482 0 0.0%
Emerson College          10,360 46.1% 1,080 610 45 7.4%
Union College (NY)            6,676 37.4% 1,066 523 39 7.5%
University of North Carolina–Wilmington          11,677 66.5% 1,065 383 166 43.3%
University of Scranton          10,002 74.8% 1,049 356 88 24.7%
Loyola University Maryland          11,600 75.3% 1,044 476 161 33.8%
Old Dominion University          11,159 85.7% 1,042   9  
Seattle University            8,576 73.8% 1,019 539 59 10.9%
Rhodes College            4,733 51.0% 1,008 214 51 23.8%
Whitman College            4,081 51.7% 998 185 76 41.1%
Vassar College            7,746 23.8% 985 472 74 15.7%
Ithaca College          14,152 70.5% 953 241 29 12.0%
Stonehill College            6,260 72.1% 936 321 49 15.3%
Pomona College            9,045 8.4% 934 541 16 3.0%
Smith College            5,432 31.9% 931 471 19 4.0%
Drexel University          28,454 79.0% 929   3  
Christopher Newport University            6,948 72.4% 921 276 107 38.8%
Gettysburg College            6,384 45.8% 917      
University of Georgia          24,165 54.0% 889 531 31 5.8%
Ramapo College of New Jersey            6,695 57.4% 881 384 224 58.3%
Radford University          14,620 74.3% 860 485 481 99.2%
Stanford University          44,073 4.7% 842 656 36 5.5%
Sewanee–The University of the South            4,218 46.7% 809 107 15 14.0%
St. Olaf College            5,949 43.2% 784 171 20 11.7%
Colorado College            8,223 15.1% 763 212 16 7.5%
Bryn Mawr College            2,936 38.0% 734 313 21 6.7%
College of Wooster            5,615 56.4% 727 130 12 9.2%
Claremont McKenna College            6,349 10.4% 723 404 1 0.2%
University of Massachusetts-Lowell          11,113 68.7% 697 272 107 39.3%
University of Iowa          27,734 86.0% 686 100 85 85.0%
Pitzer College            3,753 16.2% 675 287 24 8.4%
Bard College            5,181 56.2% 675 154 10 6.5%
St. Edward’s University            5,519 84.2% 675      
West Chester University of Pennsylvania          12,667 68.5% 640 104 74 71.2%
Butler University          14,635 65.1% 640   49  
University of Kentucky          22,653 80.1% 637 637 463 72.7%
University of San Francisco          15,441 70.6% 630 198 0 0.0%
Dickinson College            5,941 48.7% 628 252 35 13.9%
Gonzaga University            7,613 64.8% 602 146 17 11.6%
Trinity University            7,663 38.4% 592 304 43 14.1%
Clark University            8,355 56.3% 590 270 8 3.0%
College of the Ozarks            2,879 15.5% 586 584 24 4.1%
University of South Carolina–Columbia          26,019 72.3% 562 0 1  
Western Washington University          11,244 84.8% 547 226 55 24.3%
Spelman College            8,344 40.1% 546 177 5 2.8%
Roger Williams University            9,515 82.3% 542 95 60 63.2%
University of Mary Washington            5,977 73.5% 536 131 19 14.5%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology          20,247 7.2% 527 389 14 3.6%
Harvey Mudd College            4,078 15.4% 510 361 63 17.5%
Hobart and William Smith Colleges            4,409 61.1% 504 174 29 16.7%
University of Denver          19,904 58.0% 500 236 1 0.4%
Bridgewater State College            6,532 71.0% 500 500 0 0.0%
Scripps College            2,841 33.4% 495 239 1 0.4%
University of Arkansas–Fayetteville          21,715 66.0% 490 490 167 34.1%
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania            9,683 73.3% 475 156 29 18.6%
Bryant University            7,242 73.0% 465 99 99 100.0%
Washington State University          22,565 73.1% 453   88  
State University of New York–College of Environmental Science and Forestry            1,815 52.2% 452 203 32 15.8%
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire            5,990 85.7% 450 0 100  
Lewis & Clark College            6,305 71.4% 439 181 24 13.3%
Marquette University          12,957 89.3% 438 438 198 45.2%
Mount Holyoke College            3,446 50.8% 437 192 1 0.5%
Siena College            7,626 77.9% 423 61 22 36.1%
St. John’s University (NY)          27,179 67.7% 412   311  
St. Anselm College            3,892 76.1% 410 137 4 2.9%
Hope College            4,377 73.6% 409   19  
Nazareth College            4,494 62.6% 394 3 2 66.7%
Colorado School of Mines          10,619 55.7% 391 82 10 12.2%
Trinity College Dublin          18,995 15.8% 388 203 203 100.0%
Virginia Commonwealth University          16,847 76.6% 386 382 195 51.0%
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology            4,473 60.9% 379 153 39 25.5%
Rochester Institute of Technology          20,451 56.7% 376 368 80 21.7%
California Institute of Technology            7,339 7.7% 376 43    
University of the Pacific            8,870 66.0% 367 143 14 9.8%
Earlham College            2,799 51.9% 364   100  
University of New Haven            9,953 87.8% 359 359 65 18.1%
Macalester College            5,900 40.6% 356 192 104 54.2%
University of Maryland, Baltimore County          11,201 60.2% 341 341 268 78.6%
Catholic University of America            6,073 82.6% 321 83 41 49.4%
Virginia Military Institute            1,718 53.1% 309 119 4 3.4%
Gannon University            4,710 77.7% 303 110 40 36.4%
Berklee College of Music            5,538 19.2% 300 148 148 100.0%
California Lutheran University            6,569 61.6% 292 12 12 100.0%
High Point University            8,936 80.7% 287 287 149 51.9%
Millersville University of Pennsylvania            6,717 79.5% 275 152 95 62.5%
Towson University          12,747 77.3% 271   271  
Seattle Pacific University            3,692 90.9% 270 87 26 29.9%
University of Puget Sound            5,958 83.9% 268 106 75 70.8%
Hofstra University          26,808 63.9% 252 54 17 31.5%
Queens University of Charlotte            2,199 73.6% 242   161  
Samford University            3,446 91.4% 236 128 40 31.3%
Wofford College            3,092 69.3% 232 97 8 8.2%
Allegheny College            5,114 67.9% 223 223 14 6.3%
Randolph-Macon College            2,820 62.2% 216 48 31 64.6%
Saint Mary’s College (CA)            4,676 81.6% 214 129 34 26.4%
Kalamazoo College            3,434 73.4% 214 75 2 2.7%
Saint Vincent College            1,855 61.8% 213 59 54 91.5%
California Institute of the Arts            1,186 33.5% 209   90  
Rollins College            5,297 63.9% 206 84 5 6.0%
United States Merchant Marine Academy            1,855 22.2% 204 204 132 64.7%
State University of New York – Alfred State College            5,395 67.7% 196 196 72 36.7%
Saint Louis University          13,431 64.4% 195   179  
United States Naval Academy          16,299 8.4% 193 160 5 3.1%
Robert Morris University            2,459 240.5% 191 191 38 19.9%
Assumption College            4,508 79.0% 185 39 14 35.9%
Wheaton College (IL)            1,693 85.0% 184 28 15 53.6%
Quinnipiac University          22,071 73.9% 177 16 6 37.5%
Lawrence University            3,612 61.4% 176 46 1 2.2%
Roanoke College            5,117 67.2% 174   16  
Wabash College            1,304 63.0% 173 61 46 75.4%
Westmont College            2,145 70.2% 169 52 40 76.9%
State University of New York – The College at Old Westbury            3,752 78.2% 168 161 117 72.7%
Saint Michael’s College            3,094 85.1% 158 31 6 19.4%
California Maritime Academy of California State University            1,206 81.5% 154 62 6 9.7%
Hampshire College            2,305 62.8% 153 61 56 91.8%
Rowan University          10,078 65.5% 150 56 56 100.0%
United States Coast Guard Academy            2,214 17.5% 148 148 36 24.3%
Hillsdale College            2,080 41.5% 144 27 1 3.7%
Le Moyne College            7,429 64.0% 142 15 15 100.0%
Vermont Technical College               920 57.5% 138 138 53 38.4%
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art            2,574 13.1% 136 132 19 14.4%
University of Oregon          20,317 82.8% 134 79 73 92.4%
Eastern Connecticut State University            3,493 64.5% 133 72 27 37.5%
College of Mount Saint Vincent            2,667 92.7% 125 125 93 74.4%
Notre Dame de Namur University            2,167 77.7% 124 121 21 17.4%
Albany College of Pharmacy            1,049 61.3% 124 92 0 0.0%
Southwestern University            4,133 43.1% 117 30 9 30.0%
Grove City College            1,783 79.9% 114 24 15 62.5%
Morehouse College            2,349 74.4% 112 102 57 55.9%
Centre College            2,454 76.3% 107 19 4 21.1%
Drew University            3,205 63.4% 106 19 7 36.8%
Keuka College            1,371 82.9% 97 20 20 100.0%
Wheaton College (MA)            6,089 47.9% 96 17 5 29.4%
Curry College            5,448 86.9% 96 91 5 5.5%
Eckerd College            4,525 72.7% 95 16 1 6.3%
Knox  College            3,222 71.5% 94 17 10 58.8%
New College of Florida            1,353 69.0% 92 38 20 52.6%
Alfred University            3,417 69.8% 91 33 11 33.3%
Champlain College            5,197 75.0% 85 28 20 71.4%
St. Lawrence University            5,866 48.3% 85   0  
Wagner College            2,834 69.7% 82 65 17 26.2%
McDaniel College            2,814 85.0% 81 11 1 9.1%
Goucher College            3,474 78.8% 69 54 11 20.4%
State University of New York–Maritime College            1,272 69.5% 65 60 15 25.0%
Rider University            9,172 69.4% 62 0 28  
Fitchburg State College            3,104 69.7% 62   10  
Bridgewater College            7,241 52.0% 60 18 18 100.0%
Manhattan College            7,622 75.4% 60 7 6 85.7%
University of King’s College               904 46.7% 60 50 7 14.0%
The Juilliard School            2,533 6.6% 59 59 13 22.0%
Clarkson University            7,000 65.7% 59 37 7 18.9%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering            1,062 13.4% 58 38 2 5.3%
Soka University of America               489 37.2% 58 47 2 4.3%
Wells College            1,673 67.2% 57 56 56 100.0%
Full Sail University     56 23 23 100.0%
Willamette University            4,484 89.1% 56 27 3 11.1%
Alice Lloyd College               994 55.9% 55 55 23 41.8%
Illinois Wesleyan University            3,697 60.9% 42 38 9 23.7%
Ursinus College            3,488 78.2% 41 3 2 66.7%
University of Redlands            4,562 74.7% 40 16 16 100.0%
Salve Regina University            4,991 71.9% 40 40 0 0.0%
Washington & Jefferson College            5,358 47.9% 39 12 7 58.3%
Widener University            6,045 65.4% 38 3 0 0.0%
Endicott College            3,623 81.4% 36 36 7 19.4%
Central Connecticut State University            7,870 66.8% 35 35 25 71.4%
The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University            2,523 65.0% 32 32 32 100.0%
St. John’s College (MD)               753 54.6% 32 32 8 25.0%
College of the Atlantic               474 67.9% 31 12 1 8.3%
Boston Conservatory            1,216 45.9% 30 30 1 3.3%
Thomas Aquinas College               192 71.9% 28 28 14 50.0%
Gordon College            2,924 88.9% 28 0 0  
Berry College            3,883 61.6% 27 2 0 0.0%
Columbus College of Art & Design               666 87.4% 25 13 4 30.8%
Beloit College            5,400 54.0% 25 15 3 20.0%
Massachusetts Maritime Academy               838 83.2% 24   17  
Vermont Technical College               684 63.3% 20 20 6 30.0%
Misericordia University            1,740 78.8% 19 19 5 26.3%
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina            2,620 82.3% 18 18 0 0.0%
St. John’s College (NM)               342 63.2% 14 14 14 100.0%
Azusa Pacific University            6,605 83.5% 12   0  
LIM College            1,340 78.4% 11 0 11  
Juniata College            2,289 70.8% 10 10 0 0.0%
Lynn University            3,003 84.6% 9 9 7 77.8%
Webb Institute               106 34.9% 8 5 4 80.0%
Georgia College & State University            4,089 79.0% 7 7 7 100.0%
Deep Springs College               200 9.5% 5 5 5 100.0%
Massachusetts College of Art and Design            2,082 81.0% 4 4 4 100.0%
Mount Aloysius College            1,748 60.9% 4 4 4 100.0%
Cornish College of the Arts            1,134 85.5% 4   4  
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science            5,530 84.4% 3 0 0  
Xavier University (OH)          13,006 73.9% 2 1 0 0.0%
Sterling College (VT)               101 72.3% 1 0 0  
University of Pennsylvania          40,413 9.3%   3,458 2,327 67.3%
Brown University          32,723 8.5%     86  
Swarthmore College            9,382 10.7%     44  
Texas Christian University 19,740 41.1% 2,302 798 436 54.6%

Colleges use waiting lists because it helps them keep their admit rates low, which for many students and families makes a school more desirable.  If not enough students decide to enroll among those accepted–and all schools accept more students than they have spots available to enroll–the admissions can go to the waiting list and find the students they need to make sure they have not only a complete class but one that represents the myriad institutional priorities a school has.

Looking at those numbers, you might think it’s utterly hopeless if you’re put on the wait list.  At many schools, it pretty much is, but you could improve your chances by contacting the admissions office and letting them know that you would indeed attend for sure should you be admitted from the waiting list.

Or, if you want to be a hard realist, you could just say no to the waiting list.

8 thoughts on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Admit Me, or Will I Ever Get Off the Waiting List?

  1. Thanks for putting this together – here’s an edit: Penn’s 2017-18 CDS has these numbers:
    Offered a spot on the WL: 3,458
    Accepting a spot on the WL: 2,327
    Accepted: 58

  2. Here are the numbers for Texas Christian University:
    Offered WL: 2,302
    Accepting spot: 798
    Admitted: 436

Leave a Reply