10 National Universities Where It’s Hard to Get Off the Waitlist

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or graduate school search.

Being placed on a college waitlist can often feel like a prospective student is stuck in limbo as he or she awaits an answer. At some schools, the likelihood of getting admitted off the waitlist is quite high, but at others those odds are in the single digits.

Typically, being placed on the waitlist means that an applicant is a competitive candidate. But colleges are trying to admit well-rounded classes with the right mix of students, which may mean admitting applicants with specific majors or desirable talents first and wait-listing others. Ultimately, the process is more about shaping a class and predicting enrollment than it is a reflection of a single applicant.

[Read: How to Get Admitted Off a College Waitlist: 6 Steps for Success.]

Given the unpredictable nature of enrollment, how colleges use their waitlists may vary each year. But for fall 2019, the 10 colleges listed below admitted the lowest percentage of wait-listed applicants among the 79 ranked National Universities that reported this data to U.S. News in an annual survey. National Universities are schools that are often research-focused and offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees.

On average, only 3.3% of applicants were admitted off the waitlist at these 10 schools in fall 2019. That figure stands in sharp contrast to the average percent of wait-listed applicants admitted among all 79 schools: a more promising 32.3%.

Chapman University in California admitted the lowest percentage of wait-listed applicants in fall 2019, at 1.5%. Meanwhile, Cornell University in New York admitted 4.4% of wait-listed candidates, the highest percentage reported among these 10 schools.

The largest number of prospective students wait-listed at these 10 schools belongs to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where 5,661 applicants accepted a spot on the waitlist in fall 2019. Of those applicants, Case Western admitted 209 students off the waitlist, or 3.7%. Among these 10 colleges, Chapman University had the fewest wait-listed applicants at 856, ultimately admitting 13 of those students.

On the other end of the spectrum are colleges that admitted almost all wait-listed applicants in fall 2019. Seven schools admitted more than 90% of students off the waitlist. One college, Clark Atlanta University, admitted 100% of the 218 students that accepted a spot on its waitlist, per data the school reported to U.S. News.

While the odds of getting admitted off the waitlist vary greatly by school, applicants looking to make an impression should consider sending a letter of interest with any updated information colleges can use when making decisions. Additionally, students who are on a college waitlist should be prepared to make a quick decision on whether to accept the admission offer when contacted, as schools are often looking to fill these spots within 24 to 72 hours of making the offer, admissions professionals tell U.S. News.

[Read: What International Students Should Know About U.S. College Waitlists.]

Below are the 10 National Universities that admitted the lowest percentage of wait-listed applicants for fall 2019. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School Name (State) Total Applicants Accepting a Spot on the Waitlist (Fall 2019) Number of Wait-listed Applicants Admitted Percent of Wait-listed Applicants Admitted U.S. News Rank
Chapman University (CA) 856 13 1.5% 124 (tie)
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 4,922 89 1.8% 24 (tie)
Northwestern University (IL) 2,107 55 2.6% 9 (tie)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY) 3,128 89 2.8% 53 (tie)
Case Western Reserve University (OH) 5,661 209 3.7% 42 (tie)
Carnegie Mellon University (PA) 3,579 140 3.9% 26 (tie)
Villanova University (PA) 2,586 104 4.0% 53 (tie)
Southern Methodist University (TX) 1,078 45 4.2% 66 (tie)
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 3,717 156 4.2% 28 (tie)
Cornell University (NY) 3,362 147 4.4% 18

Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find admissions information, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2020 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The admissions data above is correct as of April 20, 2021.

More from U.S. News

What Coronavirus Means for College Decision Day

13 Things Parents of College-Bound Students Need to Do

10 Tips to Make Your Final College Choice

10 National Universities Where It’s Hard to Get Off the Waitlist originally appeared on usnews.com

Related Categories:

Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up