Two years ago, I wrote a detailed post about why we have a wait list that answered a number of questions you might have if you recently received a wait list letter from Oberlin. If you've been waitlisted this year, I highly recommend that you take a look, but I also wanted to comment specifically on this year's wait list.
If you're a savvy collector of publicly available but hard-to-find data, you may have seen statistics on how many students have been accepted off of Oberlin's wait list in the past few years. If you go back about 8 years, you'll see over 100 students accepted off the wait list. In more recent years, however, that number has dwindled. Two years ago, we only accepted 15 students off our wait list, and last year, the College of Arts & Sciences didn't accept any students off our wait list. That means that, based on the statistical trends, a student waitlisted to Oberlin this year should basically abandon all hope, right? Well, actually, no.
For the last two years, Oberlin has been over-enrolled. We've had slightly higher yields of admitted students than we expected, and we've had higher than projected numbers of returning students (all those not studying abroad, taking personal leaves, dropping out, etc) as well. Last year, we ended up with about 50 more students than we wanted to have on campus. The numbers haven't been high enough to be a big problem, but they do mean that we definitely have not had space to accept students off the wait list.
This year, we want things to be different. We're trying to enroll a smaller incoming class to offset the larger classes of the past two years. We're also trying very hard not to exceed our target number of enrolls. To do this, we've done a lot of arcane number crunching and data projecting to determine exactly how many students we should admit to end up with our desired number of enrolls. Then, we admitted fewer than that number. That's right, we're trying to deliberately under-enroll with our initial offers of admission. If we're successful, that means that we will admit applicants off of our wait list this year. Obviously, we don't know how many because we don't yet know how accurate our projections will be, but it is certainly our intention to arrive at our target number of enrolls by using our wait list.
So don't talk yourself into thinking that a wait list letter is just a sympathetic reject letter. If you're really interested in attending Oberlin, let us know, and if all goes as planned, in two months we'll be seriously considering accepting you off of the wait list.