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Wait List 101--10 Difference Making Actions to Take!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If you have accepted a place on the wait list of your first-choice college, the next thing to do is to spring into action and, despite the daunting odds discussed below, perform these 10 tasks. And you need to do them with a confidence you may not feel.

These actions fall into three major categories: letting the college know how very much you want to come; reminding them of how you will contribute to and enhance their campus community; and informing them of your ongoing involvement in activities, as well as any new accomplishments you have achieved and any new recognition you have gotten.

  1. First and foremost, make sure, in a letter to the dean of admissions and to your regional rep, that you let them know that, despite all the other colleges you have been admitted to, going to their college is what you want and, if you are admitted, you will definitely come.
  2. Have your guidance counselor or school principal communicate the same message. This school is your first choice! If accepted you will definitely come.
  3. In the same letter from you to the dean of admissions and to your regional rep, be sure to enumerate any new forms of recognition you have received. If you have made all-state in a sport, cite that. If you have been chosen from state choir to now be in the national choir cite that. If you have been given an award as employee of the month cite that.
  4. Be sure also to mention ongoing activities that you have continued beyond January 1, or the due date of your application, and of which you are proud.
  5. Getting to the most substantive part of the letter, please reiterate all the ways that you think you and the college are a good match. Tell them how you see yourself on the campus. What will you contribute to the college community? What are the plans you have and the places you look forward to being? Thoroughly describe three or four activities you can see yourself doing. Will you be doing research in their neurobiology lab? Will you be performing in, or an audience for, the improv theater? Will you be on the co-ed flag football team? The frisbee team? Will you be a member of the art coop? Or a leader in the new meditation space? A helper in the organic garden? A member or the investment team?
  6. Be sure also to mention any new recommenders whose letters are in the mail to the college.
  7. With reference to this, you need to search in your mind to consider if your contacts and your parents’ friends, as well as employers, athletic or arts coaches, or other contacts could write a recommendation that would strengthen your waiting list spot.
  8. When you are looking online at the college, it is very important, in general, that you thoroughly look at the college’s website. Look at all the majors you might be interested in, look at what their requirements are, look at what special opportunities they might have, look at other majors that might be related. Look at study abroad opportunities. Look at clubs, activities, sports, and student life information. Open, also, every email and communication from the college. Colleges are using the number of clicks and the electronic interest you show as an indication of your real interest. And you want to be VERY interested and attentive.
  9. I recommend you visit the school. Colleges may tell you not to and that they are busy wooing the students they have already accepted (It’s reality.). But you can walk around, take another tour, and just say hello to admissions. I know too many stories about students of mine who have gone to see their school one more time and be offered admissions during that visit. It happens.
  10. Finally, be prepared for whatever happens. The odds are long (see below) and you never know what the college’s situations is. Maybe so many students have accepted their offers of acceptance that the school is worried about where it will house all of its students for the next year. But one thing is certain, you’ll never get in if you don’t, at the very least, try.

    The odds of being accepted!

    This kind of information for a college can sometimes be found on the admissions website of a college. Or sometimes elsewhere on other websites. It is always available through the “Common Data Set (filed by colleges each year with many educational and publishing organizations)” for each university. To find it search for “common data set for 2016 + university of ________”.

    For example, in the recent (2014-15) data for the University of Richmond, it was reported that offers to be on the wait list were made to 3,621 students.  Out of those, 1,466 students accepted this offer and were placed on the waiting list. Out of those, 12 waitlisted students were ultimately admitted. In other recent years Richmond reports they have admitted up to 131 students off the wait list.

    The University of Virginia reports the same kind of data. In 2014-15, they offered 5,543 students the chance to be on the wait list. Of these, 3,456 students accepted. And of these, 42 students were accepted. In another year as many as 402 students were accepted off the wait list.

Determining College Fit—By the Numbers

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Very often when students use a short-hand way to determine if a certain college is a good fit, they look up the standardized test scores for the college. But what test score number he uses to make the assessment matters.

Of course, we all know that good fit, even just thinking about the academic part of fit, does not have to do with just the incoming abilities of the students as predicted by their standardize test scores. Besides basic academic abilities, there is also the level of intensity toward academic pursuits on a given campus. And the competitiveness of students--for example, does the campus culture foster collaboration or competitiveness? And academics is influenced by the work/ play style on the campus. And the kind of majors taught and amount of research done on a campus influence the academic atmosphere. And there are more. But these aside, students often look for a short-hand way to determine academic fit.

So if a student is using a number that he calls the average SAT or ACT score of students at Somename State University, it matters where he finds that number. If he is using the score produced by a program called Naviance which is employed by many high schools to give students information about the scores and GPAs of students from their high school who have been “accepted” to this college, then he may be seeing a much higher average score than might exist for those attending this school. This is because some of the students who were accepted to this college will not attend, and the ones who will most likely not attend are those at the very top of the chart. High scoring students tend to apply to more colleges than most other students and have more choices in the end of the process.

If, instead, the student looks on the admissions page of Somename State University’s website for a profile of its average student, he may or may not get the score of the average student “attending” the university. The website may give the average score of the “accepted” students. Or the website may give the score of the average student who is “attending” the university. This is where careful reading matters.

Two places where the student can be sure to find the right reported score for a student “attending” the university in which is interested are: a website called, and a website containing a published document called The Common Data Set for Somename State University for 2016, for this year, for instance. This document contains the data that the college is required to file with the U. S. government each year.

When I did a recent investigation with a student of so called Somename State University, for instance, the score on Naviance at his high school for the average accepted student was 1360 on the SATs. The website for the university sited an even higher score for the average “accepted” student. But when we looked up the information for this university on the site we learned that the score for the average attending student was 1275—85 points lower than what my student had been expecting. It turned out that the school—based on standardized test scores, only—appeared to be a good fit for the student.

Another source of information about standardized test scores that we found helpful was Wintergreen Orchard House data. There the data for attending students is described this way: students who scored: 500-599 44%, 600-699 45%, and 700-800 11%. So, in this case if your student's score was 570, you would know that he or she would fall into the group with scores in the lower half of the attending students and might have to work harder than most.

Of course there are other issues to discuss concerning “averaging” test scores, but that is for another blog. 



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