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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Waitlist Q&A by Matt McGann '00

A bit of clarification on being waitlisted.

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 1,120 students this year. Based on our estimates of the percentage of admitted students who will attend (known as the “yield”), we admitted 1715 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 about 1,000 applicants — approximately 6% 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 2.

What has the waitlist looked like, historically?

Last year we admitted 65 students from the waitlist. The year before that, we admitted 78 students from the waitlist, and the year before that we admitted 35 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%.

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.

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?

Next week, a mailing will be sent out with a reply card to all waitlisted students in the United States (waitlisted students with international mailing addresses will be sent an email at the same time). Students can either send in the card or reply to the email to let us know of their intent to stay on/come off the waitlist.

Certainly, if you remain interested in remaining on the waitlist, you should return the postcard/reply to the email.

Also, beginning this year we will be setting up an email address specifically for any supplemental information for waitlisted students (more information to follow). 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.

51 responses to “Waitlist Q&A”

  1. Hisham7 says:

    I was very confused yesterday !!

    Thank you Sir for clarification =)
    This is really helpful in understanding how it goes!

    And best of luck for all students on the waiting list, I hope we can get spots in May smile !

  2. Sarabjot says:

    Thank you so much Matt. This was very helpful. Hopefully MIT will have the spots to admit some of the waitlist applicants smile.

  3. JV says:

    Hey Matt, did you admit any international students from your waitlist last year? What about other recent years? I know that in at least in one year your international yield was higher than expected.

  4. JT says:

    It looks like the # of people waitlisted has increased singnificantly this year. Is that correct? Why is that?

    I’d also be curious to know what the yield rate has been for MIT the last few years. (Basically, it looks like MIT would need a yield rate of 65 to 66 percent not to go to the waitlist.) Can you provide the historical yield rate for the last 3 years?

  5. Manu says:

    Hello Matt! it was very helpful to hear about the process….

    I have two questions for now:
    Q. If I have any more questions about the process, who should I contact, admissions office? May we be in touch via email?
    Q. When will be the waitlist email address active?

  6. DK says:

    Thank you, Matt!
    I was just wondering how many international students have been put on the waitlist this year?

  7. anon says:

    1000 applicants? That seems unnecessary.

  8. BF says:

    Thank you so much for the info, Matt! I already snail mailed supplemental information this morning to the admissions office, so should I re-email the same information to the to-be-specified email?

    Thank you again!

  9. mittt says:

    Hey JV
    I am an international admitted from the waitlist!

  10. anon2 says:

    In addition to anon, I also think that waitlisting 1000 applicants is necessary.

    I don’t really think you, MIT, nor I expect a significantly lower yield rate this year. I am actually guessing it will be higher this year because you admitted more people EA which has historically had a higher yield than RD admits.

    Therefore, instead of making some tough choices you procrastinated and held off on giving rejection notices to roughly 1/16 of applicants (1000/16000). I’m betting the WL admit rate will be roughly 5% (50/1000) which suggests that the MIT admissions office can’t decide which of these applicants deserve to get in. It is punting the hard decisions to late May where they are hoping that they won’t have to accept anyone off the waitlist and not even have to make any decisions!


  11. @Mittt

    Were you admitted for the Class of 2015?…….or was it for the previous batch….

  12. @Nishan

    had to be previous (or a previous) year. they don’t even admit people from the waitlist that fast (that would be INSANE!)

    congrats on making the waitlist everyone who did! You’re luckier than you might think you are, and you have definitely earned a spot at MIT! Good luck in the future: I hope everyone waitlisted who reads this gets in!

  13. anonymous says:

    It is undeniable MIT uses quotas. For a student who is passionate about the subject I work with, and who has performed graduate level research and written papers… I am shocked that there are 1800 people who can claim more accomplishments. After talking with some former admissions counselors who quit and some MIT students, it was revealed to me that MIT uses a bar and quota system. I honestly question the brilliance of schools like MIT, who overlook exceptional students based on this system. Now, I will be successful wherever I end up because of certain character traits that I have, not because I will have a name brand school on my resume that I happened to pass a quota for.

  14. Manu says:

    Thanks! Are you current student at MIT? year?

    I am just another waitlisted applicant like you. But I think perhaps I know some explanations for your questions. (Please note: These are just my assumptions)

    You already know that even more people applied to MIT(and other top colleges) this time. So, [just] ‘perhaps’ one may expect that yield rate would decrease, as more accepted students might also get in other great colleges of their type. Moreover, although just 60-70 enrolls from w/l, they provide acceptance to more – only some accept it, say 70% (compared to regular yield rate of ~65%).

    Now, why 10x large?
    May be because -as you must know- MIT is all about the ‘best match’, once they know that who are not enrolling, if they are missing a special talent they will surely first try to get a similar one from waitlist(but not always).
    Furthermore, since waitlist is not ranked and they will reconsider all, so they need a pool to carefully review the probable students again and select the best.

    [During last few months, they just had enough time to accept ‘no doubt’ students and so couldn’t spend much time on thoroughly evaluating ‘probable’ students. But no worries, if they will have spaces(I hope they will, but MIT doesn’t hope :D ), and they find someone a real match(actually best of the w/l matches), they will definitely accept…..]

    By the way, I will someday soon do a statical analysis on the trends for last few years. If I find something really interesting, I’ll do post.

    And criteria could be simple: Someone has to be ‘second’ in a group; and, evaluating ‘seconds’ needs need deep inspection about if they are suitable for the first. Those seconds are called wait-listed.

    Lastly, the increased number of applicants this year makes statical analysis a little less predictive, so, MIT surely wants to be on the safest side. Just be realistic and ready for anything. Don’t be frustrated. Just be happy with this: you just proved that MIT wants you not to go away so easily, just because they have less space.

    I definitely agree that your character is your best possession!
    Quotas could be(or may not be) true, but whatever it is, everybody should understand that everyone in this world has some kinds of obligations. MIT know very well what they are doing and they don’t have any personal affinity with anyone(until [s]he becomes a member of the family). Whatever it is, I like MIT not for brand name but for the environment that would provide ‘me'(could be different for ‘you’) best experiences and learnings to excel, and contribute to society – this is also true for all other enrolled.

    @Matt, Chris
    Please do correct if I am going wrong. I just find analyzing and predicting something very interesting, but, at the same time understanding how wrong have I been and why increases accuracy for next time…..

  15. Bhaskar says:

    @manu I am not a MIT student.I was not admitted.You are very much correct in your description of the wait listed pool.

  16. Bhaskar says:

    @Manu The best way to be in touch with the office is via [email protected],you queries will be answered much fastly.
    The wait-listed email will be active in mid April.

    @BF If you have sent the documents then there is no need to email them.Contact the admissions office after 10-15 days to confirm(if you want to),rest assured it will be updated in the Records Office.

  17. Gina '14 says:

    I know it’s not easy, but try to BREATHE. Fall in love with an other school, get excited to go there. Send an update or two to MIT, then forget about its existence. It’s the healthiest that way. Don’t get your hopes up, and don’t think about it every day. Go out and do the things you love. Get ready for exams. I know it’s tough, been there done that, and almost dropped dead when I got a surprise email starting with “Congratulations an welcome to…”

    Good luck to everyone waitlisted, wherever you end up!

  18. Can we know in which areas we can improve our application…?


  19. m_quinn says:

    Don’t get taken in by MIT lies: whether you’re waitlisted or deferred, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ADMITTED !

    Get a pencil and paper and write to each member of you congressional delegation and tell them of MIT’s unfair and discriminatory admissions practices. Urge your representatives to cut grants and funding to MIT.

    Don’t forget this, and don’t ever get over it …

  20. K.S.RAO says:

    It is nice of you for the Q/A. It is fine. I want to know why MIT put 1000 on the Wait list pack. Past experience shows MIT took hardly 60-70 out of the wait list . Bu putting 1000 on the WL you are just creating frustration to the candidates. You should have limited WL to 250 Max. I will be greatful if you could just reply to this. Thanks once again.

  21. K.S.RAO says:

    Dear Sir,
    i appreciate the Q/A. I just wonder why MIT chose to put 1000 on the W/l while past record shows you admit only 60-70 out of the W/L. Such whose number creates frustration to the candidates as they have to wait till mid May 2011, irrespective of the fact they might have enrolled in some other institution.
    I would also like to know what the creteria base don which you have put the candidates on the W/L.
    I will be greatful if you can enlighten me on these. KSRAO

  22. m_quinn says:

    Yep, and those 17,000 were rejected, not on the basis of merit but because of how much money their folks have, where they live, and their race.

    If MIT would let you look (and they won’t ) you’ll see that that admitted 1000 are privileged and white …

  23. Nishan says:


    Can I know whether the 1715 admitted students at the top of the page, include the wait-listed students as well?

    Also can I know how I can improve my application/what more to send…. or where I went wrong earlier


  24. Anon says:

    @anonymous In any case, know that even if he didn’t think so, my message was about him. Let’s just ignore that joker.

  25. anonymous says:


    I think you missed my point. That was sarcastic. Of course people have to be turned down, and it IS based on merit.
    Not to mention, colleges these days (including MIT) are working extra hard to include minority students, to the point where you’re arguably disadvantaged to be white and middle class. Don’t go throwing a pity party for yourself and blaming it on other people.

  26. m_quinn says:


    Yes, I caught the sarcasim. It was simple and contradictory so I chose to speak through it.

    I found it amusing that you solicit sympathy for being white and middle class; then, on the very next line, launch the “pity party” assault.

    MIT rejected 17000 people not on their merit but because of family wealth, where the live, or race. This discrimination is by design and with the goal of maintaining Ivyleague class purity…

  27. Anon says:

    Could we just all stop paying attention to this buffoon? All he wants is some attention. He’s not being rational, so it’s no use being rational with him. To stop this thread from being spammed, let’s just all ignore his comments please smile

  28. m_quinn says:


    I’m with you …

    Take, for example, South Dakota. According tho MIT’s own stats, there are no South Dakotans at MIT. Why is that? You’d think that a state with some 800000 residents would have lots of validictorians with competitive SAT/ACT scores; but, alas, no South Dakotans at MIT. Could it be that South Dakota has lots of minorities, big time unemployment?

  29. Thank you! This answers all my questions =)

  30. anonymous says:

    YEAH! how DARE a top school with 18,000 applicants for 1,000 spots turn some people down! How utterly CRUEL of them! It’s so unfair and therefore MUST be discriminatory- of course it could NEVER be based on ability!

  31. JXC says:

    Ahhh, thank you. :D I’ve been doing some research as well, and this helps with clarifying what we need to do. >_Ahhh, thank you. :D I’ve been doing some research as well, and this helps with clarifying what we need to do. >_<

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Daaaaaaaay!

    v I feel like I always fill those verifications wrong, but it never rejected my message either… soo… o_O;;

  32. Daisy says:

    Congratulations everyone!!
    It is indeed a great honour to have been waitlisted! Hang in there! What’s meant to happen will happen smile You have the kindest, most compassionate people that you could ever imagine reading your applications smile

    btw, I was an international waitlist admit last year smile

    May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind always be at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

    Happy St Patrick’s day!! ^_^

    good luck everyone!

  33. Manu says:

    Thanks Daisy!

  34. Hisham7 says:

    Thank you, Daisy!
    This actually gives us more hope smile

  35. Nick29 says:

    Waitlisted = one of the many difficult problems you may come across in college or life. You can complain about it, make excuses for it or give up on it, but the only true way to find a solution is to work hard at it.

  36. Manu says:

    @ Nick29: I agree indeed.

  37. m_quinn says:


    Hey anon, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ADMITTED! You are where you’re are because MIT selected you for extinction. Waitlisting is an MIT serving device the purpose of which is to avoid alienating potential Ivy candiates. What you have been subjected to is a whole new level of blatant cruelty.

  38. anon says:

    imho m_quinn is too hilariously misinformed to not be a troll

  39. Guy Fawkes says:

    @m_quinn Challenge accepted.

  40. m_quinn says:

    @ Guy Fawkes

    Nothing to get hung about, ‘eh Guy …

  41. Careerfield says:

    Well what do you expect from a top school?

  42. m_quinn says:

    Besides, it seems to me that an ethical person would be uncomfortable that his/her MIT admission was granted in an unfair process. MIT makes no secret of the fact that merit (grades and SAT) will not get you in, and, so far, refuses to explicitly articulate just WHAT WILL get you in MIT. If you are not judged on merit then how are you judged?

    Why would you want an MIT* life …

  43. Guy Fawkes says:

    War in Libya, an earthquake, a Tsunami, and a nuclear disaster in Japan, and some people I’m not gonna name (EHEM m_quinn) can’t stop whining… Come on dude, move on. There are other things in life. Quite frankly I can’t believe you don’t think you have anything better to do than spamming these threads.

  44. m_quinn says:

    @Guy Fawkes
    Don’t go to pieces over it Guy …

  45. Bob says:


    I’d like to point out that of the 7 students total accepted from my school (5 EA), only 2 are white (1 EA). Not exactly conclusive evidence that MIT isn’t racist/classist, but neither is your Nebraska example. Furthermore, in that example you mention there are plenty of people with competitive scores, but as you also said, and as MIT says, scores are just a baseline for admission, not grounds for admission. 18000 applicants is 360 students per state, and that’s presuming an even spread of applicants among states, and no international applicants, which we know is wrong. Given that Nebraska isn’t exactly known for high quality education, and that it’s reasonably far from MIT, the number of applicants from there could well be around 100. It’s reasonable to think that those 100 were not among the most qualified applicants in the pool.

  46. Bob says:

    Sorry, South Dakota, not Nebraska. But my point hold.

  47. m_quinn says:

    Where (city/state) is this highschool you mention?

  48. Guy Fawkes says:

    If there is somebody making a huge deal out of a small thing, that is you buddy. Come on, this I say with a good intention, go and do something more productive than coming to complain here. Doing so is not going to make your life any better. That being said, I’m not going to reply to you anymore.

  49. mchen says:

    This is quite disheartening.

    Why make 1000 people wait in pained hope and go through a second round of knowing that a significant chunk of their lives hinges on the enigmatic selection process that cut them out the first time?

    I could see a buffer of 200, maybe 300 on a bad year… but if the average in the past years is 0-18%, doesn’t that mean there’s a 72-100% cushion of rejection? “Waitlisted at MIT” does not make me feel good. “Numerically inefficient” makes me uncomfortable. “Numerically inefficient waitlist at MIT” keels me over.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love this school and its prospects, but I feel like I’ve been misled and given false hope… time to fight longer and harder.

  50. kjeong says:

    I don’t know about you guys but I’m thrilled to be on the waitlist. Especially for such a selective school, it’s an accomplishment. What’s another couple months of waiting? There’s still a chance to get in, so hope is not lost yet. Use your time to pick up the oboe, or bassoon, or some instrument in demand because few play it. Maybe that’ll turn things in your favor. smile