The waitlist can be seen as an opportunity or a curse. Each year, after admitting a group of students, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to another promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than the applicants we’ve admitted. (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.) Some years, we draw a significant number of students from the waitlist. Occasionally, we don’t admit any. But most years we admit a few. That’s the opportunity part.
It can be hard for waitlisted students to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable because it’s all a bit amorphous. For one thing, it doesn’t matter whether we make 10, 100, or 1,000 waitlist offers. What matters is how may people decide to accept a spot on the list. So let’s say we make 100 offers. If 60 people decide not to wait, then the relevant number is 40 people on the list. We don’t rank our waitlist, so we haven’t determined if someone is number 1 or 40. When it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and figure things out.
Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until May 1 to decide whether to wait. It would be very unusual for us to make an offer of admission before May 1 — most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer. That’s where the curse (or cursing) comes in. The waitlist involves, well, waiting.
All members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is sometimes (always?) unwelcome. We feel your little “ouch” on receiving the news. But for some applicants who focus on the opportunity rather than the curse, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.
One last thing: While we won’t provide feedback for applications still active on the waitlist, we will answer this question (which is to say that I encourage you to ask): Is there any further information that the Committee on Admissions would like from me at this time? That gives us a chance to check your application and see if the Committee wanted to see, for example, a higher TOEFL score. Even if the Committee didn’t want anything special, waitlisted applicants are invited to send us an update. New grades or test scores, an updated résumé, a link to a publication — any new information that would be valuable to the Committee, but which the Committee doesn’t know to ask for. I’ll post a bit more about this after decisions have finally been released.
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