The Waiting Game Continues...

Posted by: Jane Porter on May 13, 2008

Many b-schools are busy notifying applicants about their third round of admissions decisions this week and those on the waiting list are anxious to see how the waiting game has played out. I’ve checked in with some of our top-ranked schools to see what their waitlisted applicants have in store.

It looks like some programs are changing their approach to the waitlist process. Schools that for years didn’t give these applications a second look until after all three rounds of admission were completed are now re-reviewing applicants from previous rounds earlier in the process. The result is that waitlisted hopefuls have a greater shot at getting in—at least that’s what the change would imply. We’ll have to see how the numbers shake out this year.

More on how top programs like Wharton and the Ross School of Business at Michigan are changing how they treat waitlisted applicants after the jump.

The policy change at Wharton means waitlisted applicants this year were reviewed side-by-side with regularly admitted applicants as opposed to separately as they were in the past. Top schools like Wharton tend to keep the numbers to themselves (because they can) and so there aren't any specific figures out there to reference. But Director of Admissions Thomas Caleel told me that thanks to the policy change, more applicants have been admitted off the waitlist this year than in the past two years. Wharton’s round three decisions go out this Thursday, but for those applicants who choose to stay in it for the long haul, there is still a shot at admissions through what Caleel calls the “last resort waitlist” running through the summer. At Wharton, applicants are advised not to bother the school with additional information “The best thing to do is just try and relax and let the process work” says Caleel. Easier said than done.

Meanwhile, at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, about 35 students have been admitted off the waitlist running at about 150 names to date. Like Wharton, the admissions office is taking a more strategic approach to the process, offering waitlist spots to a third less students this year than last and reviewing these applicants with each admissions round rather than in the spring after all admitted applicants have decided where they want to go. The change came after Soojin Kwon Koh, director of admissions, realized that some first round applicants on the waitlist in past years were better qualified than those admitted in the second and third rounds. But because their applications weren't given a second look until the tail end of the process, some top candidates were simply slipping through the cracks. While it takes a lot more manpower to look over applications multiple times with each admissions round, the change will hopefully smooth out the process in the long run. “We are hoping to be able to better manage our enrollment numbers earlier in the process,” says Koh. With a target class size of 430 and between 600 to 700 acceptance offers made by the end of round three on Thursday, Koh says it’s unclear how many students in waiting will be offered admissions. International applicants should know by June 1 for visa purposes, but others may be stuck without an answer through the end of August.

In last year’s incoming class of 514 MBAs at Kellogg, as many as 15% were admitted off the waitlist, says Beth Flye, director of admissions and financial aid. This year the numbers seem to be on par, but it’s too early to tell how the figures will shake out. On Monday applicants in the third admissions round were notified about whether they were admitted, waitlisted or rejected. Those still in waiting can expect a status update by email in early June. While acceptance yields are trending up slightly this year over last—bad news for those on the waitlist—Flye says the picture will be much clearer in the next two to four weeks when acceptances from those admitted roll in.

The University of Chicago is one of (unfortunately) few schools that doesn’t string first-round applicants along on their waiting list through the summer months. “We use the waitlist to gauge the pool not to gauge the students' interest,” says Rose Martinelli, head of admissions who compares waitlisted students to new applicants coming in to ensure the pool of those admitted is the best of quality. Every other Wednesday, the GSB will notify waitlisted students if their status has changed. Expect those notifications to come in by email. Last year Martinelli estimates about 75 students were admitted off of a waitlist of hundreds. While still in flux, the number is likely higher this year because of the high caliber of applicants rolling over from each application round she says. “I don’t want to drag people on. That’s just mean,” says Martinelli.

But it looks like for those determined to get into their first choice—the mean mad waiting game continues well into the summer months.

Reader Comments

Randy Roads

May 16, 2008 12:48 PM

Hi Jane,
In your discussion on the University of Chicago's waitlist process when you say, "While still in flux, the number is likely higher this year..". What does "the number" refer to? The number of the waitlisted students, or the number of students admitted off the waitlist? Which one of these is higher this year? Thanks!


May 16, 2008 4:00 PM

This number refers to the number of applicants admitted off the waitlist, not the length of the list itself.
Hope this clarifies.
Good luck!

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