Though most students have heard a definitive “yes” or “no” from the Office of Admissions, more than 2,000 students have received a “maybe” from Penn.
The Office of Admissions waitlisted 2,017 students this admissions cycle, continuing a trend of shrinking the waitlist over the past few years. Penn waitlisted 2,400 students last year and more than 3,500 students three years ago.
Penn reported an overall admissions rate of 12.3 percent last week — tied with last year’s total for an all-time low.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda explained that the University eliminated some of the indecisiveness during the earlier stages of narrowing down the applicant pool.
In previous years, Penn had 3,000 to 4,000 waitlist candidates following the initial application review, after which the admissions officers pared this group down to the final waitlist pool.
However, the Office of Admissions did not need to make any “adjustments” this year, Furda said, and ended up with the final waitlist after its initial round of application reviews.
“In some ways, we’re just being a bit more definitive about the decisions that we’re making,” he said.
Though Penn’s waitlist has decreased considerably over the past few years, many peer schools did not follow suit for the Class of 2016.
Princeton University waitlisted 224 more students than last year, and Yale University’s waitlist increased slightly to 1,001 students. Cornell University also put 132 more students on the waitlist than for its Class of 2015.
All three schools saw their lowest acceptance rates ever this year, with Princeton and Yale admitting fewer students than last year.
Top Colleges Educational Consultant Steven Goodman, a 1989 Graduate School of Education graduate, said he had expected Penn to use the waitlist more extensively this year, especially with the return of early action programs at Harvard University and Princeton.
“There’s very little downside to throw more students on the waitlist,” he said. “It takes the sting away from a rejection and it also gives the Office of Admissions wiggle room to help shape the class.”
However, Michael Goran, a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting, said he was not surprised by Penn’s movement this year.
Goran added that Penn’s trend of smaller waitlists may be due to a recovering economy.
“Part of the growing sizes of waitlists [in past years] was the uncertainty in the economy and in whether students ultimately would enroll in a school,” he said. “This number may be a reflection of an improving economy and more confidence by admissions officers that they’ll get the yield they want.”
He added that it may simply be that Penn has realized “enough is enough” and that it does not need thousands of students in line to fill the few spots that may open up.
Furda said he expects that, like in previous years, about 60 percent of students placed on the waitlist will hold their spot. Waitlisted students are generally informed whether they have a place in the incoming class at some point in May or June.
Ultimately, he said his responsibility is ensuring that Penn has the class it needs.
“I have a responsibility to make sure we have enough students on the waitlist should we need to go to the waitlist,” he said. “But I feel this number, even with that 40-percent drop off, will give us enough of the type of student we want, the quality of student we want.”
Nina Reed — who was waitlisted to the College of Arts and Sciences from Archmere Academy in Claymont, Del. — said she has already declined her spot on the waitlist.
“It’s important to me that I can make a commitment to a school by May 1 and get settled,” she said. “I don’t want to stretch out the process.”
However, she added that being waitlisted by Penn, her first-choice school, was an “honor” because she was aware of the low acceptance rate.
“If anything, it just made me view the school more positively, and I’m more proud of my friends who got accepted there,” she said.
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