Oberlin Blogs

A Word to the Waitlisted

April 1, 2011

Elizabeth Houston ’06

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.

Responses to this Entry

My friend was pretty disappointed when she got waitlisted. What specifically can she do "if [she's] really interested in attending Oberlin, [to] let [you, Oberlin] know"?

Posted by: Gian on April 1, 2011 11:04 PM

Continued from previous post...

That is, aside from what you already mentioned here http://blogs.oberlin.edu/applying/selection_process/demystifying_th.shtml.

Posted by: Gian on April 1, 2011 11:07 PM

I apologize for the now-triple post, but...

What can she do about being waitlisted until June 30? Most of her colleges require her to submit her intent to enroll by May 1.

Posted by: Gian on April 1, 2011 11:11 PM

Hi Gian,
Anything she could do to stand out on the wait list is pretty much described in my previous wait list entry. Sending us a letter expressing her interest is probably the best thing to do at this point. Your friend will want to deposit at another school by May 1st to ensure that she will have a college to attend this fall.

Posted by: Elizabeth on April 4, 2011 9:16 AM

Thank you, Elizabeth! Hopefully this under-enrollment plan works out.

Posted by: Gian on April 6, 2011 12:53 AM

So, have any places opened yet, and have you guys started to release decisions?

Posted by: Taha on May 5, 2011 3:24 PM

Yes, we are looking at admitting students off of the wait list, and we have begun to make some offers of admission.

Posted by: Elizabeth on May 5, 2011 3:28 PM

And one more thing. Will you be sending offers by email, air mail or courier? I am an international.

Posted by: Taha on May 5, 2011 4:47 PM

We're calling domestic students who are being offered a spot in the class, but we will email international students.

Posted by: Elizabeth on May 5, 2011 5:18 PM

Hi! Can you tell me what happens to merit aid that is offered to students who don't enroll? Is it offered to students who are accepted off the waiting list?

Posted by: Ann on May 8, 2011 8:49 PM

Ann, the financial aid process is actually a bit more complicated than that (for instance, we expect during the awarding process that a certain percentage of accepted students who are awarded scholarships will choose not to enroll). We don't generally offer merit aid to students accepted off the waitlist, but we would certainly use any available aid funds to support the financial aid packages of students accepted off the wait list. We meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all accepted students, even those pulled up off the wait list.

Posted by: Elizabeth on May 9, 2011 9:05 AM

Hi! Have you started making offers of admission to international students from the wait list?

Posted by: Itrat on May 16, 2011 11:44 AM

Yes, we have been considering international students as we evaluate pulling applicants up off the wait list, and we have made some offers of admission to waitlisted international students.

Posted by: Elizabeth on May 16, 2011 11:50 AM

Hello! Are people still being accepted off the wait list?

Posted by: Anonymous on May 31, 2011 12:25 AM

Yes, we do still have some wait list activity going on.

Posted by: Elizabeth on May 31, 2011 9:32 AM

How many people have been picked off the waitlist as yet, and how many places remain?

Posted by: Taha on June 2, 2011 4:57 PM

I don't want to start off on a fatalistic note, but if I don't get in to Oberlin, and even if I do, could you give me some advice on choosing a safety school? I sort of arbitrarily chose one, and now I'm starting to question my decision. How far below my level should I go, so as to make sure I get in SOMEWHERE?

Posted by: Cara on October 18, 2011 9:49 PM

Hi Cara,
Safety schools are a pretty personal decision, and are often regional selections, so I can't get too specific about where would be a good choice for you. Your high school guidance counselor may be able to assist you further. However, most students apply to a state school for a safety that they can expect to get into and also to be an affordable option. I would recommend also looking at some small liberal arts colleges that are less selective than Oberlin, but still offer an environment that you're likely to be comfortable in. There are lots of excellent college search resources out there-- look for a school that fits your general criteria, but has a higher acceptance rate and/or average admitted student stats (GPA and test scores) that are lower than your stats. Don't feel bad about applying to more than one school that you consider to be a safety, and good luck!

Posted by: Elizabeth on October 19, 2011 10:28 AM

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