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Campus Overload
Posted at 11:31 AM ET, 05/10/2012

On a college wait list? Keep waiting.

The first week of May is usually the final deadline for accepted students to commit to a college by mailing in a deposit check. Once that deadline passes, admissions offices have a better idea of how many more bodies they need to fill the freshman class — and if they need to dip into the wait list.

Ah, the college wait list: You didn’t get in, but you didn’t get rejected. There is still a glimmer of hope that you might still be accepted. But at many schools, especially prestigious ones, only a limited number of students make it off the list.

An American University student tour guide talks to prospective students and their parents in 2010. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)
Locally, Johns Hopkins University has 1,446 applicants on its wait list and, at this point, has no plans to accept those students. Howard University just added a formal wait list this year, but it has yet to accept any of the 200 applicants on the list. Catholic University in the District put nearly one in four applicants on a wait list, and doesn’t plan to accept many — if any — of them. Georgetown University doesn’t release the length of its list, but reports having accepted about 50 wait listers this week. George Washington University wait-listed more than 700 applicants and expects to accept about 25.

 Nationally, many of these lists have grown from hundreds to thousands in recent years, as school officials keep their options open: They don’t want to accept too many applicants, as that could raise their admit rate and make their school seem less selective. But they also don’t want to under-estimate and not have enough tuition-paying, well-rounded students show up in the fall.

Enrollment management means planning ahead for “summer melt” — students who change their minds before classes start — and first-semester drop-outs.

I asked some of the universities in the Washington region to share stats on their wait lists. Here’s what I heard back:

Johns Hopkins: Right now, there are about 1,446 wait listers, which is about the same number as last year. A school spokeswoman said no one has yet been accepted off that list, and “we have no plans to at this point in time.”

University of Virginia: About 2,500 students remain on the wait list, which is about the same as last year. The admissions office has begun to accept students off the list.

Howard: There are about 200 students on the wait list this year, and the admissions team has yet to accept any of them. Last year the university did not have a traditional wait list.

Loyola University Maryland: The wait list has 1,696 students on it. The university has begun to accept “a limited number of students from the wait list,” according to a spokesman.

Catholic: The university received 6,322 first-year applications this year and put 23 percent on a wait list. That’s an increase from 12 percent last year. At this time, the university doesn't plan to accept students off the list, although a few might be added this summer.  

College of William and Mary: The college made wait list offers to 3,473 applicants and now has an active list of 1,506, a little higher than last year. The college has begun to accept students off the list.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland: There are about 200 on the wait list, which is fewer than last year. The public honors college has already admitted a few students and may add a few more this summer.

This post was updated on Friday to include numbers from GWU.

For more higher education news, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And here is more information about wait lists:

How to get off that college wait list (April 2012)

Admission wait lists growing at many colleges (April 2011)

Live Chat: Admissions counselor Katherine Cohen on being accepted, denied or wait-listed (April 2011)

Waitlisted student sings on You Tube: ‘Harvard, please admit me!’ (April 2011)

By  |  11:31 AM ET, 05/10/2012

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