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 as extensive of a list as possible of frequently asked questions and answers about how the Hopkins wait list works. This list is posted below to attempt to assist you along the way. I also have created a Wait List Discussion Thread on the Hopkins Forums for you to ask additional questions, and for me to post updates when they become available. I hope this helps.
How does the wait list work?
Our enrollment target is 1,225 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 admissions, 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?
To remain on the wait list we ask that you complete and mail back the blue Wait List Reply Card that is included with your decision letter. Send this card back as soon as possible – it needs to be postmarked by May 1. We do not have an online form for submitting this information and we would prefer to receive the reply card back rather than fielding “remain on wait list” responses through email or phone. Just be patient, your decision letter was mailed on Friday (March 27th) and should arrive shortly.
For students living abroad, you may send an e-mail titled “Remain on the Wait List” to <email@example.com>, since international postal times do vary so much. Please include your full name (that you used when you applied), your birth date, mailing address, and your school name. Just make sure that you do send the blue card back when you receive your decision.
Finally, it is very important to note that only those who select to remain on the wait list option will be considered for a spot in the class if spaces become available.
My wait list letter did not contain a blue card? OR I lost my blue card, what to do?
Traditionally, we request that students submit the blue wait list reply card to officially accept a place of the Johns Hopkins wait list. In such cases where a student has lost or not received the wait list card with their decision letter, we do have a process of allowing students to request to remain on the wait list. To do such, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of "Remain on the Wait List." Please include your full name, birth date, mailing address, and school name in this email.
Should I do anything else besides sending back the card? 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.
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. Along these same lines, I like what one of my fellow bloggers from another university (Matt at MIT) write:
Here are some things you should not do: Fly to campus to make the case in person. Send us ridiculous items or bribes. Submit a whole new application. Bombard our office with way too much stuff. Be pushy. Be sketchy. Let your grades drop. Not choose another college to attend by May 1.
Do note that you are not required to submit any additional materials, just the postcard. Also it important that if you choose to submit updates to your file, 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 can not process application updates submitted through email. When mailing, do 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.
How big is this year's wait list? Is the wait list ranked?
We will not know the size of this year's wait list until we receive all wait list reply cards back. We expect that about 1000 students will request to keep their position on our wait list.
In no way, shape, or form is our wait list ranked. If spaces in the class become available, we will review the application of each and every student who selected to remain on the wait list.
What are my chances of being admitted from the wait list?
It is impossible at this time to predict any individual's chances of being admitted from the wait list. Admission will depend on how many admitted students accept their offer from Hopkins, how many students send back their wait list replay cards, and a series of other enrollment factors. There is just no way of telling, so we request your patience and understanding.
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 that all depends on the response from our admitted students. Our decision as to 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.
How do you choose from the wait listed candidates? Do you choose people who will fit better at JHU than others; people who show the most interest, people who satisfy spaces open in certain academic areas, or a mix of all of this?
As I stated above, 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 and admission off the wait list will depend on how many admitted students accept their offer from Hopkins. The main thing to note is that if we decide to use the wait list this year EVERY applicant who chose to remain on the wait list will be re-reviewed for admission. When re-reviewing students for admission off the wait list our priority will always be quality of the student and what will they contribute to Hopkins, but we may also have to factor in additional concerns dependent on the make-up of the enrolling class. It is that last note that I will try to expand on.
If the decision is made to select students for admission off the wait list than a determination is made that we have not hit our targets for the enrolling class. This means that we have not enrolled the set number of students we want to enroll. Removing students off the wait list helps us make our yield number but also helps us make sure there is diversity in our class in every way shape and form.
It might be decided that when selecting students off the wait list we specifically want to target one area of academic interest … or we need to take students with no financial need because we have no aid … or we want students with a specific demographic breakdown — it all depends and unfortunately until we see the make-up of the class of 2013 we can not make a determination. Remember there is no guarantee that one will be admitted off the wait list just because they are a strong applicant, because there is no guarantee that we will need to take students off the wait list. Interest does matter but it is not the driving force of our decision making process.
I want to come see the campus in April. Can I visit, and what kind of visit programs can I participate in?
You are welcome to visit Hopkins in the month of April. Our offices are open Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm. Tours are offered on weekdays at 11am and 2pm, and information sessions are available at 10:00am and 1:00pm. There are some exceptions, so check out the visit section on our web site: http://apply.jhu.edu/visit/guidedtours.html. We regret that we are unable to accommodate any requests for overnights and/or day visits from wait listed students. Additionally, our Open House programs in April are for admitted students only.
During my visit can I get an interview or meet with an Admissions counselor one-on-one?
Unfortunately, no. We are unable to grant interview or meeting requests for wait listed students. Instead, we ask that you put any information or updates in a written letter which will be added to your application file. If you do have a specific question, you may email your regional counselor: http://apply.jhu.edu/contact/staff.html.
If I am accepted off the wait list and I applied for financial aid, will I receive any financial assistance?
There is no guarantee of financial assistance for students accepted from the wait list. It all depends on whether there is available funding after the numbers are crunched from the admitted students who have chosen to enroll. If financial aid is still available, then students admitted off the wait list will have financial aid packages awarded to them. If financial aid is not available, then we will be unable to admit students off the wait list with financial need.
If I am accepted off the wait list, am I bound to enroll at Johns Hopkins?
No. If we offer places in the class to students on the wait list, those students will have the chance to select whether they want to enroll at Hopkins or stick with the other University that they had previously selected. We provide students with about a two-week deadline for responding to our offer of admission from the wait list. Submitting the Wait List Reply card and selecting that you want to remain on the wait list is not a commitment to enroll at Hopkins if admitted.
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:
I hope this information helps. I will update the blog with news from the wait list when it becomes available. Just remember, there will not be any news until after May 1st, and more likely my next wait list update will not be posted until the middle of May at the earliest. Finally, remember if you have further questions please post them to the Wait List Discussion Thread on the Hopkins Forums.