In a 2003 NACAC article on the practice of wait listing and deferrals, Martin Wilder – Executive Board Member of NACAC said, “The waitlist notification offers neither the joy of acceptance nor the finality of rejection.” Being waitlisted or deferred means that a college has not accepted you but thinks enough of you that if any spots are available as the year unfolds, the school will give you a chance to enroll. Waitlists were created to benefit schools, not applicants, and are designed to ensure there are enough interested students to fill enrollment. If a particular college has 2,000 openings in their freshman class and only 1,900 students enroll, a school turns to their "wait-list" to fill enrollment until they have reached an acceptable number. According to NACAC, roughly 30% of colleges use waitlists and students only have a 1-5 chance if they are waitlisted.
The Waiting Game
Being waitlisted can actually be worse than being rejected because you simply don’t know the status of your application or if the school will call you and ask you if you would like to enroll. Colleges are supposed to send you a letter outlining the number of waitlisted students, and the chance of acceptance. Schools are also supposed to notify you by August 1 (which will probably be after you have sent in a deposit to another school). The waitlist status usually comes at a difficult time in the life of students as they are in the process of receiving other acceptance and rejection letters from other schools.