Tuesday, April 27, 2010
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- Like a lot of my friends this year, I am on the wait-list for several colleges. We have until May 1 to respond with more information that might persuade them to admit us. My question is, what can we tell them that we already haven't said that will impress them? Believe me, we are depressed at finding ourselves wait-listed when we thought we were sure shots at getting in. It is nerve-racking. -- Wait-listed
Dear Wait-listed -- I've never had so many inquiries from students stuck on waiting lists as I have this year.
Parents contact me in a panic, asking how their sons or daughters got wait-listed by as many as eight colleges. Students, too, are frustrated because the number of those who were neither accepted nor rejected is larger than ever this year.
Unlike previous years, this year, some students applied to as many as 15 or more colleges. This caused a sharp jump in applications, even at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, where students from Northwest Indiana applied in record numbers.
Duke University in Durham, N.C., is another popular college with NWI students. Duke had a 30 percent increase in applications, resulting in a record 27,000. Of those, 3,382 were wait-listed -- almost twice the size of its freshmen class.
Duke officials reported that only 60 will be admitted off the wait list. That's fewer than 2 percent. They said the number of wait-listed students is high because it is difficult to predict how many will accept among those who were admitted. For similar reasons, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wait-listed 722, Yale 1,000 and Dartmouth 1,740.
Still, some get in. Who are they?
It is important to remember the admissions office works for the college to fill institutional needs. And colleges try to "sculpt" each freshman class, so as not to over- or underenroll in certain majors.
If one department has more intended majors than is normal, colleges try to predict next year's needs based on that increase.
Other factors they take into consideration are sports, geographical location, ethnic background, musical talent and legacy status.
Another less well-known reason to be wait-listed is the likelihood you will attend if accepted. For example, when students fill out financial-aid forms, colleges also see the names of other colleges to which they applied.
If you applied to Harvard and used Boston College as a backup school, BC might place you on the wait list, thinking you most likely will attend Harvard, if accepted.
They hedge their bets, just in case, and wait-list many top students who normally would get in.
Here are few suggestions that might help you get off the wait list.
* Write to the admissions office, letting it be known you'll accept if admitted. Admissions officials need to know they still are your first choice.
You'd be surprised at the number of students who fail to follow up.
* Check the original application to make sure so you didn't leave out something. Remember, several top colleges require as many as 15 essays, and each is given a score. If you find a blank space, it needs to be addressed in the letter.
Don't forget, the overall tone of the letter is important. It needs to show maturity and intellectual honesty. Colleges want to know what you are capable of doing if you are admitted. The best way to show that is to talk about why a particular major is important to you.
* One final note: If you are talented in an area -- sailing, political campaigning, tennis -- now is the time to let admissions people know how important that is to you.
Anything you have done that shows grit and determination counts a great deal. Admissions officials are human beings, and they identify with people who struggled to overcome obstacles in life.
Gerald M. Bradshaw of Crown Point consults with students on how to gain admission to selective colleges, universities and law schools.
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