Colleges Grow Wait Lists, Leaving More Students in Limbo

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

After months in limbo, Morgan Lundblad recently opened her long-awaited email from Harvard University to find only more uncertainty. She had been wait-listed.

The senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Chicago had applied to a dozen of the nation's most elite colleges. When the smoke cleared, Lunblad still did not have a definitive path forward. Of the schools where she was accepted, she narrowed her choices to the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. Still, she can't quite let go of Harvard, which had a record low 5.9 percent acceptance rate for this fall. She may not know her fate until mid-summer.

"It's not really a rejection, but it kind of is," she said. "It just doesn't help you too much. I need to make a decision."

While no one tracks the number of college applicants nationwide who are wait-listed, admissions experts and high school guidance counselors agree the ranks have swelled in the last five years. That leaves more students consigned to the half-way house of admissions, where they are unable to fully celebrate an admission or properly mourn a denial.

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