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Posted at 3:27 PM ET, 04/28/2010

Colleges woo accepted students as May 1 deadline nears

By Valerie Strauss

Every school offers admissions to some students who don’t end up attending. Even Harvard.

That’s why many schools try hard to persuade students they have accepted to say ‘Yes.” With the national May 1 deadline for accepted students to declare where they will attend, schools are making last-ditch telephone calls, sending e-mails and holding campus tours for accepted students right up to the end of the month. They're even offering to pay some of the travel costs of a visit to campus.

In fact, two Minnesota private schools, Saint John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, which share an academic program, are paying half the airfare for all accepted students to visit the campuses, offers that are among the most generous in the country, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

For Minnesota and other states where the high school population is falling, attracting out-of-state students, now and in the future, will be critical to survival, so the schools have incentive to be especially kind to non-residents.

Oxford College at Emory University started a blog so students can start to connect with the school community, and most colleges hold small gatherings around the country for admitted students to meet alumni and other admitted students.

No matter what schools do, though, there will always be students who turn them down, even the country’s most selective colleges and universities.

For the 2008-09 school year, the latest for which statistics are available on Harvard's Web site, 13,660 men applied as freshmen; 1,073 were admitted and 820 enrolled. Of the 13,802 women who applied, 1,102 were admitted and 838 enrolled.

For the current school year at Dartmouth College, 8,465 men applied as freshmen, 1,139 were admitted and 535 enrolled. There were 9,667 female applicants, 1,140 were accepted and 559 enrolled.

It would be nice for colleges to pay just the slightest bit of attention to students on their waiting lists and let them know whether anything that they do will help their chances of being offered admission.

Longer-than-ever waiting lists just mean more kids going through the agony of waiting, and less chance than ever of getting off.

For example, this past year at Wesleyan University, 4,071 men applied, 946 were admitted and 356 enrolled. There were 5,997 applications from women, of whom 1,272 were accepted and 389 enrolled. The number of students offered places on the waiting list was 1,838; 688 agreed to be put on the list. Only 40 were offered spots in the freshman class.

Most schools in the University of California system set up waiting lists for the first time this year, and one, UC Davis, has more than 5,000 students on it.

Meanwhile, high school counselors and teachers are besieged by kids asking for new recommendations and letters to colleges, hoping that might just do the trick.

In fact, a lot of colleges won’t even accept new information, but they don’t bother to tell the applicants.

Colleges and universities should give everybody a break and tell students what they will accept and what they won’t.

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By Valerie Strauss  | April 28, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  Harvard University admissions, May 1 deadline, Wesleyan admissions, college admissions, college wait lists, colleges wooing students, wooing students  
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