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 Applicants offered a place on waiting list Applicants accepting
Wait-list admits Percent Admitted from Waitlist.
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 11,094 4,109 468 11.4%
University of California–Santa Cruz 10,378 6,038 2,236 37.0%
University of California-Irvine 9,235 5,291 526 9.9%
Syracuse University 9,023 2,601 1,202 46.2%
Fordham University 9,009 2,600 48 1.8%
University of Miami 8,286 2,373 71 3.0%
University of California–Davis 8,263 2,922 435 14.9%
Baylor University 7,558 1,459 1,349 92.5%
Case Western Reserve University 7,178 4,252 586 13.8%
University of Massachusetts-Amherst 6,736 1,557 44 2.8%
University of California–Santa Barbara 6,650 4,000 960 24.0%
Lehigh University 6,516 2,799 53 1.9%
Boston College 6,477 3,791 16 0.4%
Villanova University 6,276 2,545 211 8.3%
University of Virginia 5,961 3,615 117 3.2%
Cornell University 5,714 3,723 75 2.0%
Carnegie Mellon University 5,609 2,834 4 0.1%
Tulane University 5,596 1,672 0 0.0%
University of California–Riverside 5,499 3,108 321 10.3%
Loyola Marymount University 5,298   7  
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 5,097 2,339 35 1.5%
Ohio State University–Columbus 5,051 1,283 852 66.4%
Marist College 4,820 887 99 11.2%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 4,803 2,662 22 0.8%
University of Central Florida 4,801 2,896 53 1.8%
George Washington University 4493 1616 170 10.5%
Boston University 4,399 2,584 7 0.3%
College of William and Mary 4,392 2,355 69 2.9%
Emory University 4,277 2,992 41 1.4%
Georgia Institute of Technology 4,241 2,822 21 0.7%
American University 4,049 609 0 0.0%
Temple University 3,992 950 386 40.6%
University of Vermont 3,988 876 0 0.0%
State University of New York–Stony Brook University 3,778 1,697 68 4.0%
University of California–Berkeley 3760 2445 1340 54.8%
Fairfield University 3,757 1,118 56 5.0%
Virginia Tech 3,485 2,404 0 0.0%
University of Connecticut 3386 1780 148 8.3%
University of Richmond 3,383 1,281 56 4.4%
University of Portland 3321 698 75 10.7%
San Diego State University 3,279 1,630 9 0.6%
University of Rochester 3,203 1,750 6 0.3%
California Polytechnic State University 3,168   15  
University of Delaware 3144 650 195 30.0%
Providence College 3,103 985 7 0.7%
Northwestern University 2,905 1,892 65 3.4%
Bucknell University 2,883 1,301 55 4.2%
Miami University 2,860 604 45 7.5%
Indiana University–Bloomington 2,852 519 210 40.5%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2846 2092 350 16.7%
Johns Hopkins University 2752 1747 187 10.7%
Michigan State University 2,687 1,994 530 26.6%
Clemson University 2,649 924 876 94.8%
James Madison University 2,500 1,425 225 15.8%
North Carolina State University 2,479 1,043 7 0.7%
Georgetown University 2,473 1,571 50 3.2%
The College of New Jersey 2,405 597 20 3.4%
Santa Clara University 2,397 1,479 39 2.6%
Franklin & Marshall College 2,335   16  
Skidmore College 2,300 461 60 13.0%
Wesleyan University 2,267 1,233 108 8.8%
Purdue University–West Lafayette 2,235 3,664 94 2.6%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute 2,187 1,093 102 9.3%
Pennsylvania State University–University Park 2,168 1,359 0 0.0%
Elon University 2,117 695 153 22.0%
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh Campus 2,098 767 110 14.3%
Bentley University 2,082 693 0 0.0%
Rice University 2,080 1,328 17 1.3%
Pratt Institute 2,038 2,009 93 4.6%
Wellesley College 2,032 1,153 36 3.1%
Dartmouth College 2,021 1,345 0 0.0%
University of Oklahoma 1,929 1,929 163 8.4%
University of San Diego 1,913 896 3 0.3%
Brandeis University 1,826 668 8 1.2%
Williams College 1,796 673 0 0.0%
Babson College 1,723 681 0 0.0%
University of Tampa 1,720 168 168 100.0%
Lafayette College 1,708 412 111 26.9%
Barnard College 1,703 1,222 51 4.2%
Stevens Institute of Technology 1,672 583 90 15.4%
Muhlenberg College 1666 384 22 5.7%
Reed College 1,659 511 0 0.0%
Kenyon College 1,656 766 38 5.0%
Bates College 1,640 773 7 0.9%
Washington and Lee University 1,634 737 32 4.3%
State University of New York at Binghamton 1,543   374  
George Mason University 1,531 975 70 7.2%
University of Notre Dame 1,508 901 96 10.7%
Tufts University 1,504 635   0.0%
Denison University 1,502 323 55 17.0%
Colgate University 1,500 745 37 5.0%
Colby College 1497 634 42 6.6%
Southern Methodist University 1,423 582 69 11.9%
Furman University 1,412 59  
Pepperdine University 1,386 776 2 0.3%
Carleton College 1,315 521 41 7.9%
Hamilton College 1,299 629 33 5.2%
Appalachian State University 1,288   215  
State University of New York–University at Buffalo 1,274 292 0 0.0%
Connecticut College 1,260 543 48 8.8%
Middlebury College 1,259 540 21 3.9%
State University of New York at Geneseo 1,172 451 350 77.6%
Princeton University 1,168 826 101 12.2%
University of Colorado–Boulder 1,159 173 173 100.0%
Haverford College 1,152 483 37 7.7%
Sarah Lawrence College 1,145 576 79 13.7%
Amherst College 1,144 590 60 10.2%
University of Rhode Island 1,134 326 43 13.2%
Grinnell College 1,126 534 12 2.2%
Oberlin College 1,125 752 124 16.5%
College of the Holy Cross 1,109 444 0 0.0%
Yale University 1098 713   0.0%
Occidental College 1,088 482 0 0.0%
Emerson College 1,080 610 45 7.4%
Union College (NY) 1,066 523 39 7.5%
University of North Carolina–Wilmington 1,065 383 166 43.3%
University of Scranton 1,049 356 88 24.7%
Loyola University Maryland 1,044 476 161 33.8%
Old Dominion University 1,042   9  
Seattle University 1,019 539 59 10.9%
Rhodes College 1,008 214 51 23.8%
Whitman College 998 185 76 41.1%
Vassar College 985 472 74 15.7%
Ithaca College 953 241 29 12.0%
Stonehill College 936 321 49 15.3%
Pomona College 934 541 16 3.0%
Smith College 931 471 19 4.0%
Drexel University 929   3  
Christopher Newport University 921 276 107 38.8%
Gettysburg College 917      
University of Georgia 889 531 31 5.8%
Ramapo College of New Jersey 881 384 224 58.3%
Radford University 860 485 481 99.2%
Stanford University 842 656 36 5.5%
Sewanee–The University of the South 809 107 15 14.0%
St. Olaf College 784 171 20 11.7%
Colorado College 763 212 16 7.5%
Bryn Mawr College 734 313 21 6.7%
College of Wooster 727 130 12 9.2%
Claremont McKenna College 723 404 1 0.2%
University of Massachusetts-Lowell 697 272 107 39.3%
University of Iowa 686 100 85 85.0%
Pitzer College 675 287 24 8.4%
Bard College 675 154 10 6.5%
St. Edward’s University 675      
West Chester University of Pennsylvania 640 104 74 71.2%
Butler University 640   49  
University of Kentucky 637 637 463 72.7%
University of San Francisco 630 198 0 0.0%
Dickinson College 628 252 35 13.9%
Gonzaga University 602 146 17 11.6%
Trinity University 592 304 43 14.1%
Clark University 590 270 8 3.0%
College of the Ozarks 586 584 24 4.1%
University of South Carolina–Columbia 562 1  
Western Washington University 547 226 55 24.3%
Spelman College 546 177 5 2.8%
Roger Williams University 542 95 60 63.2%
University of Mary Washington 536 131 19 14.5%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 527 389 14 3.6%
Harvey Mudd College 510 361 63 17.5%
Hobart and William Smith Colleges 504 174 29 16.7%
University of Denver 500 236 1 0.4%
Bridgewater State College 500 500 0 0.0%
Scripps College 495 239 1 0.4%
University of Arkansas–Fayetteville 490 490 167 34.1%
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania 475 156 29 18.6%
Bryant University 465 99 99 100.0%
Washington State University 453   88  
State University of New York–College of Environmental Science and Forestry 452 203 32 15.8%
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 450 100  
Lewis & Clark College 439 181 24 13.3%
Marquette University 438 438 198 45.2%
Mount Holyoke College 437 192 1 0.5%
Siena College 423 61 22 36.1%
St. John’s University (NY) 412   311  
St. Anselm College 410 137 4 2.9%
Hope College 409   19  
Nazareth College 394 3 2 66.7%
Colorado School of Mines 391 82 10 12.2%
Trinity College Dublin 388 203 203 100.0%
Virginia Commonwealth University 386 382 195 51.0%
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 379 153 39 25.5%
Rochester Institute of Technology 376 368 80 21.7%
California Institute of Technology 636 468 8
2%
University of the Pacific 367 143 14 9.8%
Earlham College 364   100  
University of New Haven 359 359 65 18.1%
Macalester College 356 192 104 54.2%
University of Maryland, Baltimore County 341 341 268 78.6%
Catholic University of America 321 83 41 49.4%
Virginia Military Institute 309 119 4 3.4%
Gannon University 303 110 40 36.4%
Berklee College of Music 300 148 148 100.0%
California Lutheran University 292 12 12 100.0%
High Point University 287 287 149 51.9%
Millersville University of Pennsylvania 275 152 95 62.5%
Towson University 271   271  
Seattle Pacific University 270 87 26 29.9%
University of Puget Sound 268 106 75 70.8%
Hofstra University 252 54 17 31.5%
Queens University of Charlotte 242   161  
Samford University 236 128 40 31.3%
Wofford College 232 97 8 8.2%
Allegheny College 223 223 14 6.3%
Randolph-Macon College 216 48 31 64.6%
Saint Mary’s College (CA) 214 129 34 26.4%
Kalamazoo College 214 75 2 2.7%
Saint Vincent College 213 59 54 91.5%
California Institute of the Arts 209   90  
Rollins College 206 84 5 6.0%
United States Merchant Marine Academy 204 204 132 64.7%
State University of New York – Alfred State College 196 196 72 36.7%
Saint Louis University 195   179  
United States Naval Academy 193 160 5 3.1%
Robert Morris University 191 191 38 19.9%
Assumption College 185 39 14 35.9%
Wheaton College (IL) 184 28 15 53.6%
Quinnipiac University 177 16 6 37.5%
Lawrence University 176 46 1 2.2%
Roanoke College 174   16  
Wabash College 173 61 46 75.4%
Westmont College 169 52 40 76.9%
State University of New York – The College at Old Westbury 168 161 117 72.7%
Saint Michael’s College 158 31 6 19.4%
California Maritime Academy of California State University 154 62 6 9.7%
Hampshire College 153 61 56 91.8%
Rowan University 150 56 56 100.0%
United States Coast Guard Academy 148 148 36 24.3%
Hillsdale College 144 27 1 3.7%
Le Moyne College 142 15 15 100.0%
Vermont Technical College 138 138 53 38.4%
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art 136 132 19 14.4%
University of Oregon 134 79 73 92.4%
Eastern Connecticut State University 133 72 27 37.5%
College of Mount Saint Vincent 125 125 93 74.4%
Notre Dame de Namur University 124 121 21 17.4%
Albany College of Pharmacy 124 92 0 0.0%
Southwestern University 117 30 9 30.0%
Grove City College 114 24 15 62.5%
Morehouse College 112 102 57 55.9%
Centre College 107 19 4 21.1%
Drew University 106 19 7 36.8%
Keuka College 97 20 20 100.0%
Wheaton College (MA) 96 17 5 29.4%
Curry College 96 91 5 5.5%
Eckerd College 95 16 1 6.3%
Knox  College 94 17 10 58.8%
New College of Florida 92 38 20 52.6%
Alfred University 91 33 11 33.3%
Champlain College 85 28 20 71.4%
St. Lawrence University 85   0  
Wagner College 82 65 17 26.2%
McDaniel College 81 11 1 9.1%
Goucher College 69 54 11 20.4%
State University of New York–Maritime College 65 60 15 25.0%
Rider University 62 28  
Fitchburg State College 62   10  
Bridgewater College 60 18 18 100.0%
Manhattan College 60 7 6 85.7%
University of King’s College 60 50 7 14.0%
The Juilliard School 59 59 13 22.0%
Clarkson University 59 37 7 18.9%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 58 38 2 5.3%
Soka University of America 58 47 2 4.3%
Wells College 57 56 56 100.0%
Full Sail University 56 23 23 100.0%
Willamette University 56 27 3 11.1%
Alice Lloyd College 55 55 23 41.8%
Illinois Wesleyan University 42 38 9 23.7%
Ursinus College 41 3 2 66.7%
University of Redlands 40 16 16 100.0%
Salve Regina University 40 40 0 0.0%
Washington & Jefferson College 39 12 7 58.3%
Widener University 38 3 0 0.0%
Endicott College 36 36 7 19.4%
Central Connecticut State University 35 35 25 71.4%
The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University 32 32 32 100.0%
St. John’s College (MD) 32 32 8 25.0%
College of the Atlantic 31 12 1 8.3%
Boston Conservatory 30 30 1 3.3%
Thomas Aquinas College 28 28 14 50.0%
Gordon College 28 0  
Berry College 27 2 0 0.0%
Columbus College of Art & Design 25 13 4 30.8%
Beloit College 25 15 3 20.0%
Massachusetts Maritime Academy 24   17  
Vermont Technical College 20 20 6 30.0%
Misericordia University 19 19 5 26.3%
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina 18 18 0 0.0%
St. John’s College (NM) 14 14 14 100.0%
Azusa Pacific University 12   0  
Juniata College 10 10 0 0.0%
Lynn University 9 9 7 77.8%
Webb Institute 8 5 4 80.0%
Georgia College & State University 7 7 7 100.0%
Deep Springs College 5 5 5 100.0%
Massachusetts College of Art and Design 4 4 4 100.0%
Mount Aloysius College 4 4 4 100.0%
Cornish College of the Arts 4   4  
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science 3 0  
Xavier University (OH) 2 1 0 0.0%
Sterling College (VT) 1 0  
University of Pennsylvania 3458
2327 58 2%
Brown University     86  
Swarthmore College     44  
Texas Christian University 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