It's a Long Road!
Many students are celebrating Early Action acceptances right now, and they should – it was very hard to get in this year!
But others are still waiting for that Regular Decision acceptance, perhaps from a dream school. This will be more problematic. Most selective colleges (those more likely to offer Early Decision rather than Early Action) received hundreds more applications than they are used to.
Some of these applications came from students who aren’t really qualified, who just “threw in” one more app because the college offered Test Optional for the first time. These non-serious applicants will be quickly weeded out.
But highly selective colleges still received many more applications from qualified students as well. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, students often chose to submit more applications.
Colleges always assume that a certain number of students will turn down their acceptances. In regular years, it’s anywhere from 15 percent (Harvard) to 85 percent (Ithaca College). But it's unclear what will happen to a given college's yield in this pandemic year.
Institutions probably will continue to be conservative in their offers, hoping to choose applicants who will choose them back. Applicants that might have been accepted last year may be shunted to the Wait List this year -- especially if the student is strong enough to have received other, more welcome offers.
Enrollment Managers will have to guess about the behavior of this year's admitted students. They know that data about past classes might not apply during a pandemic. For these Enrollment Managers, the Wait List might become their best yield-protection tool.
As each strong applicant makes his or her choice among acceptances, conservative admissions offices will have to turn more and more to the students they didn't accept outright. It could take until June or July, but I predict Wait Lists will move.
If a student applied to a well-curated list of schools, and has taken the right steps along the way, he or she should have good news in store, even if it comes a little late. Check out my comprehensive services for younger students looking to put together such a list, and protect yourself in the game-playing of future years.