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.


4 Responses to Decisions 101, the Waitlist

  1. Thanks, Narae. That’s a slightly tricky question for me to answer. On the one hand, I’d say that applicants should definitely continue this week to send us updates on basic credentials — new test scores, or an updated resume if they change jobs. I’d be less encouraging of sending new writing samples, etc., because the Committee is not likely to have a chance to review anything lengthy. If you learn about the publication this week, send me a note and I’ll be sure to add it to your application.

  2. Narae says:

    Dear Jessica,

    Thank you Jessica, your blog is not only informative but also fun!

    When is the latest day that the applicants can update their file (I applied for Ph.D program)? I have submitted two articles to journals and have to wait another 15 days or so to hear if they would accept or not…

    thank you in advance!


  3. Thanks for your question, Sandra — it raises a point that other applicants may be interested in. Here’s what I can say. Someone who was waitlisted in a previous year looked like a pretty good applicant. If that applicant then corrected some of the problems with his or her application (for example, worked for the additional year, improved English or second language proficiency, or took some graduate level courses), then the applicant will look even better in the new application. As I’ve said, we appreciate reapplicants, but it’s important that we see improvement from the waitlist decision year to the new application. I hope this helps to clarify our approach!

  4. Sandra says:

    Hi Jessica,

    My question is in regards to former waitlisted applicants reapplying for admissions this year. Is it typical for Fletcher to admit several former waitlisted applicants who are reapplying for admissions or are those cases not too typical?

    Thank you in advance, for all your helpful updates,


Spam prevention powered by Akismet