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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Waitlist FAQ by Matt McGann '00

Some answers for students offered a place on the waitlist.

I know that folks on the waitlist have lots of questions; hopefully this post will be helpful.

How does the waitlist work?

We are aiming for a class of about 1,130 students this year. Based on our estimates of the percentage of admitted students who will attend (known as the "yield"), we admitted 1620 students. However, it isn't possible to exactly predict how many student will attend this year. To help with the uncertainties, we also keep a waitlist of students.

Is the waitlist ranked?


How many people are on the waitlist?

We offered between 800-900 applicants — fewer than 5% of applicants — a spot on the waitlist. Not all of those students will choose to remain on the waitlist.

Can you tell me where I am on the waitlist?

As I've said, the waitlist is not ranked. We will reconsider all of the waitlisted students again in May, when we know how many students remain on the waitlist, and how many we wish to take from the waitlist.

How many people will you admit from the waitlist this year?

It is impossible to know. We will have no idea how many people, if any, we will take from the waitlist until after the reply date of May 1.

What has the waitlist looked like, historically?

Last year we admitted 27 students from the waitlist. The year before that, we admitted 65 students from the waitlist, and the year before that we admitted 78 students. A few years earlier, however, there was a four year stretch where we didn't take anyone from the waitlist. So, it's hard to know how this year will look. Over the past few years, the "waitlist admit rate" has ranged from 0% to 18%.

Can you tell me where my application was lacking, or what I should improve on?

If we waitlisted you, it means we really like you, and you do not need to improve on your application. You should, however, continue to get good grades, as we may call your school to check on your academic progress.

What are the realities here?

I know that while we plan for the worst, usually things don't go quite so badly. Thus, it's likely that most people on the waitlist will not be admitted. I hope that you will have another great choice to fall in love with, so that no matter what happens with the MIT waitlist, everything will still turn out well for you in the end.

Who do you admit from the waitlist? For example, if someone from state X or major Y declines, are you likely to look for another student like them?

If we go to the waitlist, we will consider what our class looks like as one factor in choosing students. But we're not strict about it. So, if an oboe player decides to go somewhere else, we may, or may not, try to take another oboe player.

Why do admissions metaphors so often refer to oboes?

I don't know!

Are domestic students given priority over international students on the waitlist?

No, but we do consider whether admitting international students from the waitlist would put us over our international quota.

If I'm waitlisted, can I still come for CPW or do the Overnight Program?

No, I'm sorry.

I'm still very interested in attending MIT. What should I do if I hope to be admitted from the waitlist?

First: there is a link to the waitlist confirmation page in your decision letter. You should complete this form when you determine if you would like to remain on the waitlist. We encourage students on the waitlist to complete the waitlist reply form once you know all of your college choices. The deadline to complete the form is April 18, 2012.

Next, be sure to enroll in a college/university by May 1.

You do not need to submit additional documents, but if you would like to, you can email [email protected] and the documents will be added to your application. Excessively emailing us will not help your case (and might hurt it). I would recommend sending us a note to this email address in mid-late April with an update on what you've been up to since our last contact. You can also feel free to provide any other information you think would be helpful.

What should I not do?

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.

What should I do about the May 1 reply date for other colleges?

You should accept the offer of admission from another college before May 1, even if it means making a deposit. After May 1, when all students have sent their replies, colleges will determine if they need to go to their waitlist or not, and if so, how many students they need to admit. At this point, colleges will begin admitting students from the waitlist. Students who accept this offer will "unenroll" at the first college and enroll at the second. This shifting can lead to a second round of waitlist admissions. All of this is a standard part of the admissions process. We colleges recognize and accept this.

If I'm admitted off of the waitlist, do I have to go to MIT? What about financial aid?

You're not required to enroll. We'll give you a financial aid package and you'll have time to consider your decision before letting us know one way or the other. It is in your best interest to complete your financial aid application now, so that if you are admitted from the waitlist, we'll have a financial aid package ready to go. Our waitlist process, like our entire admissions process, is need blind, and we will meet full need for all admitted students.

Okay, what should I do now?

First, focus on choosing the best fit college of those who have offered you admission. Waitlists are uncertain, so it is always best to ensure your happiness no matter what the outcome.

If you are still interested in MIT, you should stay in contact with us. Drop us a note to the waitlist email address once things have calmed down a bit. Please always be very nice in all of your interactions with us! Keep us up to date all the way through May 1 and beyond if you remain interested.

And in the meantime… be patient. There won't be any waitlist news until early-mid May.