More decision options: Waitlist offers

On Thursday evening last week I was chatting with someone who had asked about my work and who then recalled how stressful she found it when she applied to graduate school.  “Stressful” is, in fact, a common description that we hear from our applicants, too, and it’s why we try to share information about the process throughout the year. (Not that a little information can completely erase the apprehension that accompanies preparing applications, contemplating a move across the country or around the world, leaving a job, etc. — but we do our best.)

With the end of the process on the not-so-distant horizon, it’s also why we want applicants to understand the different decision options, and today I’m going to explain the waitlist.  Acknowledging that other graduate schools may describe their waitlists differently, here’s how Fletcher approaches things.

Each year, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of 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.)  In 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.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  For starters, when decisions go out, we can’t even answer the most basic question:  How many people are on the waitlist?  Surely we should have an answer, but we don’t.  Why?  Because, in March, 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 only 40 people decide to wait, then the relevant number is 40.  We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and re-review our notes.

Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait.  Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.  Sadly, the waitlist involves, well, waiting.

All members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome.  But for some applicants who focus on the opportunity involved, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little time to give your application a boost.  For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to  know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  And don’t hesitate to crow about your latest publication or honors.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.

One last thing: Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone.  Get in touch, and we’ll let you know if there’s some special piece of information we need.

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