The deal with the waitlist

Recently I made a relatively brief mention of the waitlist in discussing all the types of admissions decisions our applicants receive. The waitlist tends to generate a lot of questions, and I figured it would be worthwhile to dig into it a bit more. The unavoidable truth is that the waitlist involves waiting, and waiting means uncertainty. So, while I’ll do my best to answer some of the most common waitlist questions, prepare yourself for the fact that many answers come down to some version of a non-committal “maybe” or “it depends.”

Why did I get put on the waitlist?

Every application pool contains more well-qualified candidates than there are spots in the class. However, the broad category “well-qualified” is a continuum, and some candidates are more well-qualified than others. Waitlisted candidates have many of the attributes that make for a competitive application and a successful Fletcher student, but are generally a bit weaker in a core area or two than our strongest applicants.

Is there anything I can do to improve my application?

While there are obviously portions of your record that can’t be changed, such as your undergraduate performance or past work experience, there are a number of ways in which it’s possible to strengthen your candidacy in the short-term. While on the waitlist, your application is considered open and active, which means that we’re still happy to add additional materials to it that you might provide. This could be an updated resume, an additional letter of recommendation, or a transcript or other documentation of additional coursework (a continuing-education language, economics, or statistics course, e.g.). None of these things are required, and you won’t be disadvantaged by declining to add any new materials. But if there’s a part of your profile that you’re pretty certain was an application liability, there may be things you can do in the short term that can demonstrate a good faith effort toward improving upon it.

How am I supposed to know my own areas of weakness? 

Our assumption is that applicants to Fletcher have familiarized themselves with all the information available online about what makes for a strong candidacy, and my hunch is that most candidates probably have a pretty good sense of the areas in which they could improve. While we can’t offer any direct feedback on active applications, an honest self-assessment of your academic record, international exposure, foreign language ability, professional experience, and career focus will likely give you a sense of areas for improvement.

Okay, got it. So how many people are on the waitlist, anyway?

The Waitlist Uncertainty Principle states that the overall size of the waitlist is unobservable, since it varies every year relative to the size and strength of the applicant pool. In any case it’s irrelevant information, since what really matters is the number of people who accept a spot on the waitlist, as well as the number of available spots in the class after the enrollment deadline for admitted candidates passes. The first of those is constantly in flux as applicants reply to the offer, and the second varies year to year.

Sounds evasive. Can you give me a ballpark figure to work with?

Unfortunately not. What I can tell you, though, is that in most years we admit at least a handful of candidates off of the waitlist, and sometimes it can be two or three handfuls.

Okay, let’s come at this from another angle. How do I know where I am on this waitlist of indeterminate size?

A corollary to the Waitlist Uncertainty Principle is that an individual’s precise location on the waitlist cannot be determined, because we don’t rank it. Instead, if/when we’re ready to make offers of admission after the April 20 response deadline for admitted candidates, we’ll re-review the entire list, and make offers to the strongest candidates. This is why it’s worth considering what else you might add to your application in the meantime to strengthen your case.

If I’m admitted from the waitlist, will I be eligible for scholarship aid?

Scholarship aid is typically available for those admitted from the waitlist, and is awarded according to our normal merit- and need-based process.

When might I find out if I’ve been admitted off of the waitlist or not?

We typically begin making offers from the waitlist in early May, and we’ll continue to do so until the class is full. While in most years this means the bulk of waitlist activity takes place from early May to mid-June or so, it depends on the year. When the class is full, we will notify everyone remaining on the waitlist that we don’t expect to be able to admit any further candidates. The waitlist does involve waiting, but we will be in touch with you when we have any updates to share.

Sounds like I don’t have anything to lose by remaining on the waitlist, even if I don’t ultimately gain anything either, is that about right?

I couldn’t have put it better.

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