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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 05/18/2010

Colleges should tell students odds of getting off wait lists

By Valerie Strauss

Colleges that insist on maintaining waitings lists that are longer than the phone book should tell students their odds of eventually being accepted.

My colleague Daniel DeVise wrote a story about ridiculously long waiting lists at Washington area colleges, and I’m sure this region is not the only one where colleges are hedging their admissions bets.

For example, he reported, the University of Virginia has offered admission to 6,900 students and wait-listed 3,750, a group large enough to fill the 3,240 spots for the Class of 2014.

Let’s look at the statistics at UVA for last year. According to the university’s Common Data Set, for the current school year:

*4,522 students were offered spots on the waiting list (more than this year)
*3,883 agreed to take a place on the list
*420 were admitted off the list
*3,239 students entered as freshmen in fall 2009.

That means that UVA was offering each student a 7.7 percent chance of getting off of the list.

Schools could respond that they don’t really know the chances of being admitted. And, of course, they technically don't. But most institutions have a history in this regard.

Colleges and universities also should make it clear to students on the waiting list whether there is anything they can do to boost their chances of getting off the list.

Students have a right to know how high they should allow their hopes to rise.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 18, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions, waiting lists  
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