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What Is the Latest Trend in 2024? Waitlist Acceptances

Back in April, I wrote a blog post suggesting that this year's waitlist activity felt a little different. The University of Virginia publicly announced days before my blog post was published that it had already admitted 57 students from the waitlist. That felt early to me, especially with so many colleges extending their enrollment deadlines due to the FAFSA issues plaguing this cycle.

Now that two months have passed, I wanted to revisit my initial thoughts about the waitlist season of 2024. My gut was right. It is clear that there is more waitlist activity this year, especially among the more selective colleges, than there has been since the pandemic hit. 

Since early April, we have heard of dozens of waitlist acceptances among our Application Nation students. Here are the trends of those acceptances:
  • Our first waitlist acceptance came on April 10th: a student admitted off the waitlist at Wake Forest University.
  • While we have heard rumors of some students getting admitted off the waitlists at certain Ivy League universities, the only Ivy at which we had a student admitted off the waitlist was Cornell on May 16th. 
  • We have multiple acceptances at a few colleges like NYU, Villanova, and William & Mary. However, our list includes 15 unique institutions that have admitted our Application Nation students off the waitlist thus far.
  • All but five institutions on our list are considered "highly selective" in nature due to an acceptance rate of 25% or less. 
  • Our list includes both public and private institutions using their waitlists. 
  • Biggest surprise? One acceptance off the waitlist at the University of Michigan's School of Nursing.

Was a highly selective or very selective college more likely to use its waitlist this year? Yes. Does this suggest less demand, a lower-than-expected yield rate, or even a decrease in their desirability? Possibly. 
I am carefully watching these highly selective colleges, in particular. With encampments, protests, presidents stepping down, and almost daily news articles about ongoing admissions practices that favor certain groups over another, highly selective colleges are under a microscope right now. While it will take a seismic shift for families to be less interested in highly selective colleges, we are beginning to see more students than ever before recognize better fits elsewhere. 

READ MORE: Are Elite Colleges Trending Downward?

No matter what, a college will use its waitlist only if it receives fewer enrollment deposits than expected. When this occurs, it shifts the power away from colleges and allows students to have more control and influence late in the game. The fact that we are seeing an uptick in waitlist activity this year is a positive sign for students. It's about time.