Why do colleges "Wait List" some students?
The answer is found in the principle that colleges are selling higher education services, and parents are the customers. That means that Letters of Acceptance are issued primarily for the benefit of the colleges. They accept who they want, when they want, how they want.
Colleges track their admissions data very closely, over decades of time. Those large numbers give them a very accurate picture of how many letters of acceptance are needed in order to fill every seat available. Remember, each seat in a first-year cohort is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the student's education.
In the administrative offices, "yield" is the number of students who actually matriculate from among the greater number to whom letters of acceptance were sent. Let's take some easy numbers to help your understanding.
Big Time College plans for a first-year class of 2,000. Their historic yield is 50%. Therefore, they sent out 4,000 letters of acceptance, and notify another 1,000 they are on the Wait List. Suppose this year they miss their yield by 1%; 20 students. Big Time College's wait list is now accessed. Starting at the top, they go down the list until they find the 20 students who will accept an offer of admission.
What is the top? The wait listed students are ranked academically from most-well-qualified to less-well-qualified. Those at the top of the list probably missed by inches a letter of acceptance in the first place.
Should you wait on the wait list? Probably not.
You will never know how close to the top you are.
You will not find out if you are chosen until the deadline for commitment has passed for the other colleges that accepted you.
Is there a scholarship awarded with your Letter of Acceptance?
Students who submitted college applications weeks ago are receiving Letters of Acceptance already. Those affirmations make everyone happy. Congratulations!
It is not uncommon, not at all, for a scholarship to be awarded along with the acceptance letter. That is also a good thing and, again, congrats.
What is it not, however?
It is not truly a scholarship as much as it is a discount off of the price. In other words, no money will ever exchange hands. The college is just offering to charge you less.
It is possible the scholarship is for only the first year; not renewable for years two, three and four. Be sure to ask.
It is contingent. Contingencies include your senior year of high school grades, your personal deportment both in school and in your community (i.e. don't get busted for doing something stupid) and whether you commit by any deadlines mentioned in the letter.
Finally, and most important, it is not the final and formal offer of financial aid. That will come, typically, in late March/early April.
What is that scholarship then?
An enticement to commit before you hear from any other colleges.
Therefore, wait. Wait until at least the end of 2020. By then you will likely have heard from every college to which you applied. If, by then, there are schools from which you have no formal letter of acceptance (or denial of admission) call the school(s) and check on the status of your application.
That last thing reminds me to remind you to check NOW with every college on your list. Make certain they have every requirement in hand. Don't wait. Deadlines are hard stops in college admissions.
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