Making sense of the waitlist

Much of our attention around this time of year is focused on admitted candidates. Some time still remains until enrollment decisions are due from these folks, and there are naturally a lot of questions involved as people make their plans. There’s another group of active candidates out there too, though, and it’s important to pay them some blog attention. Waitlisted candidates, this post is for you.

Of all the possible permutations of admissions decision, an offer of a spot on the waitlist might be welcome news to some and a frustrating disappointment to others. There are always more capable and talented applicants each year than there are spaces in the class. Generally speaking, waitlist offers are made to candidates whom the Admissions Committee feels have most of the qualifications and qualities to succeed at Fletcher, but who also have a few weaknesses with respect to the pool of admitted candidates.

It’s something of a no-decision decision, and there’s no avoiding the hard reality that electing to remain on the waitlist involves waiting. To unpack this a bit, we’ll start with the fact that candidates offered a spot on the waitlist first need to accept or decline that offer. Some of these candidates might have admissions offers elsewhere, and it’s understandable if they decline to remain on our waitlist in order to accept one of those offers. Those who elect to remain on the waitlist are of course interested in timeframes and the probability of receiving an offer of admission, and it’s here that some tolerance for uncertainty is a must as we rarely can offer definitive information about the dynamics of the waitlist.

Among the most common questions we receive are “where do I rank on the waitlist?” and “how many waitlisted candidates are there?” The answer to the first of these is pretty straightforward: the waitlist is not ranked, and all candidates are re-reviewed by the Admissions Committee. The response to the second question requires a bit more nuance, but boils down to “it doesn’t matter.” This is because admissions offers to waitlisted candidates are always a function both of available spots in the class and of candidates who elect to remain on the waitlist. Each of these varies from year to year, and also fluctuates within a single year.

This starts to sound confusing, I realize, and most of these internal workings of the waitlist process needn’t concern you. The crucial points to keep in mind are: 1) your applications are considered open and active while on the waitlist, and as such it’s still possible (though not required) to submit additional materials for consideration, such as an updated resume, supplemental recommendation, or additional statement of interest; 2) in most years we make at least a handful of admissions offers to waitlisted candidates; 3) the majority of waitlist activity takes place between early May and mid-June, though will continue as long as spots remain in the class, and; 4) we will notify all remaining candidates at whatever point all spots in the class are occupied and the waitlist process is closed.

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