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What does the waitlist mean?

  1. It does not mean “no,” not even close.
    1. It means you are competitive and you meet a base level of qualifications,
    2. However, you may be too close in profile to others that apply or have a deficiency in one aspect of your profile.
  2. Wait-listed generally means that you will be admitted if someone who was admitted goes elsewhere.
    1. This churn will happen.
  3. The waitlist acts as a buffer and is used, by the adcom, to manage this situation.
    1. Check the US News or Businessweek rankings to see how many students actually accept (“yield”).
    2. If the % of students electing to go else where is high, then this is good news for you.

What are the mechanics of the waitlist?

  1. Schools need to manage their “yield” as it impacts their rankings in widely published magazines.
    1. Having a low “yield” causes a school to fall in the rankings.  Obviously the adcom does not want this.
    2. Often this means that the strongest candidates to a school will actually get waitlisted as they are possibly using the school as a backup.
    3. If you listed stronger schools on your application as “other programs you are applying to” this may increase your chances of getting waitlisted.
  2. What stinks about the waitlist is that you may be notified close to the actual start date of class.
    1. That gives you less of a timeline to make important arrangements concerning your arrival at school.
    2. It is important to note the “ripple effect”.  That is, the higher a school is ranked (HBS, Stanford, Wharton), the more likely candidates on their waitlist will chose to accept.
    3. When these candidates accept, they deny their acceptance at lesser ranked schools.
    4. Then, the ripple continues and those on the waitlist at the lesser ranked school get off the waitlist and are accepted.
    5. This continues and finally you find yourself having to make a decision only a few days or weeks before the first day of class.
  3. Further complicating the waitlist process is that adcoms may not know what the actual composition of their entering class is going to be.
    1. If they have gaps in bankers or IT professionals (for instance), they may elect to tap the waitlist to fill deficiencies in the make-up of the class.

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