A Post for the Wait-Listed Applicant

College admissions wait lists have been compared by many as a state of purgatory—not yet admitted and not denied. I often feel that a wait list decision is harder to deal with than a deny decision because there is no closure yet, no definitive answer. The college admissions process is defined by waiting, and now some students must wait for another month or two for their final decision. I have written previously that this wait list process is one of the most discussed topics in my field. Just do a quick Google search and you will find countless articles about the subject and also “supposed” services or advice columns on how a wait list works. Personally, since I find the media so far off-base when they report on college admissions, and I have an overwhelming fear of students buying into “how to get off college wait list” schemes, I sit down and compose this post for those on the Johns Hopkins wait list every year.

Wait list decisions exist because of the sheer competition to get into college these days, and they work as a form of protection for schools to make sure they yield their class each year. It would be wonderful to exist in a world with definitive decisions and no wait lists, but unfortunately that ideal just doesn’t exist.

So what to do? Well first it is important to know that being placed on the Johns Hopkins wait list is NOT a rejection of you and your abilities. It is a statement about the exceptional quality of our applicant pool and the limited number of spots we can offer to make our class. We respect the frustration and apprehension that exists with being placed in a state of limbo, so to assist we try to provide as much information as we can along the way.

Over the years, I have composed an extensive list of frequently asked questions and answers about how the Johns Hopkins wait list works. I have posted the complete list to the Hopkins Forums in an attempt to assist you along the way:


A selection of the questions posted on the discussion thread:

How does the wait list work?
Our enrollment target is 1,245 new freshmen. Based on our estimates we have admitted a percentage of our applicant pool that we expect will yield a class that size. However, it is quite hard to exactly predict the number of students who will accept our offer of admission, hence the existence of the wait list. If we miss our target, then we will admit students off of our wait list to assure that we enroll a complete class.

I still really want to go to Hopkins. What should I do if I want to remain on the wait list?
Instructions on how to remain on the wait list are included in the decision notification e-mail you received. Follow the personalized link in your e-mail to make the decision to remain (or be removed from) the Johns Hopkins wait list. You need to respond by May 1 at the latest.

Should I do anything else besides selecting to remain on the wait list? I heard we can update our applications. Is that true, and what kind of updates can we submit?
You may certainly send updates that you would like added to your application. Such information can assist the Admissions committee if we do review wait list candidates for admission. We suggest the following if updating your application:

A Letter of Interest: A one or two page letter to the Admissions Committee that states why you are interested in Hopkins, why you feel it is the right school for you, and why you should be admitted from the wait list.
Updated resume: Let us know what you have gotten involved with during your senior year. This should include updated information not in your original application.
Recommendations: One or two additional or updated letters.
Updated transcript: Your most recent grades, even beyond the mid-year report, can be helpful. Ask your guidance counselor to submit them if possible. In addition, a final transcript when it becomes available is requested. (If you are admitted from the wait list, a final transcript will be required.)

Please DO NOT send the following:
(1) additional writing samples
(2) supplemental materials such as CDs, slides, portfolios, etc.
(3) research or term papers.
Just stick to the list above.

Do note that you are not required to submit any additional materials, only to respond online using the personalized link in your e-mail. Also, if you choose to submit updates to your file, it is important that you make sure that they will contribute in a substantive way or provide new information. All updates should be sent to the Admissions Office either via postal mail or fax (410-516-6025). We cannot process application updates submitted through e-mail. When mailing or faxing, include your full name, birth date, school name, and a note that the materials are to be used as a wait list update.

Why was I wait-listed? Was this just a way to break the bad news more gently?
Admissions decisions are comprehensive decisions that take into account many factors included in each individual application within the context of the overall applicant pool. In every application we are searching for the ideal fit with the university based on the information in the applicant files. The Admissions Committee is unable to discuss with applicants why we were not able to offer admission, but it is important to know that offering a student a spot on our wait list is not done out of a courtesy or to lessen the impact of our decision. Any student on the wait list who chooses to remain on the wait list will have a chance for admission if spaces in the class become available.

When will I hear if I’ve been accepted off the wait list? The other schools I was admitted to require a deposit by May 1—should I wait until I hear from Hopkins?
Once again, this all depends on the response from our admitted students. Our decision of whether we will admit students off the wait list will not be made prior to May 1 and it is more likely we will make that determination closer to June 1. We strongly recommend that you submit your deposit to a school where you have been accepted. If you are later admitted to Hopkins from the wait list and choose to attend, you will withdraw your enrollment from the other school and forfeit the previous deposit.

Do you have any historical data of how many students were admitted from the wait list in previous years?
Though every year is different and the numbers vary, here is what happened the past few years:

2010 – Approximately 30 students were admitted from the wait list.
2009 – No offers of admission from the wait list.
2008 – Approximately 40 students were admitted from the wait list.
2007 – Approximately 80 offers.
2006 – No offers.
2005 – No offers.
2004 – Approximately 150 offers.
2003 – Approximately 100 offers.
2002 – No offers.
2001 – Approximately 50 offers.
2000 – No offers.

As I said, there is much more information over at the Hopkins Forums. Do make sure to visit the Wait List Discussion Thread (2011) for the complete list of questions and answers. As well, when updates become available they will be posted to that thread first. It may be a good idea for you to bookmark the page.

If you have any questions about the Johns Hopkins Wait List, post them to the discussion thread as I am sure others are wondering the same thing. I will be as prompt as can be with responses and provide as much detail as possible. I hope this helps.

One thought on “A Post for the Wait-Listed Applicant

  1. I just wanted to say thank you so much for this post! It’s been helping me so much with the whole waitlist process; hopefully you’ll be receiving some updates via mail from me soon. :)
    Thanks again,
    Erin Kim
    Issaquah High School, WA

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