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    Waitlists and International Students

    “I was extremely happy and proud when I received interview invites from HBS, GSB, Wharton and many other great schools. And I felt sadly funny and confused that I kept being wait-listed one by one,” Pang says.

    A student placed on a college or graduate school waitlist has not been formally accepted but may be offered admission as spaces become available. For the fall 2018 admission cycle, about 50% of waitlisted applicants chose to remain on the list, with about 20% of them on average eventually accepted, according to the 2019 State of College Admission report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

    Only 7% of waitlist candidates are admitted at the most selective colleges.

    Pang says he was eventually denied admission to four of the schools that wait-listed him. However, he gained admission to Wharton, his dream school, and graduated with his MBA in May 2019.

    As prospective international students prepare applications for admission to U.S. colleges, here are some things to know about waitlists.

    University Enrollment Targets

    International applicants may worry about being at a disadvantage if they find themselves on a waitlist that includes domestic students. Experts say schools don’t typically differentiate between wait-listed international and U.S. students but may have varying enrollment goals that have an impact on admissions decisions.

    For example, Scripps College in California doesn’t give undergraduate domestic students priority over international students on the school’s waitlist, according to the school’s website.

    “Once a school goes to its waitlist, the admissions office wants to round out the freshman class with students who are excited about the school and fill in some gaps,” says Victoria Dimock, a counselor with education consulting firm IvyWise. “Whether that’s academic or extracurricular interests, where students are from, students’ socioeconomic status, or their cultural background.”

    Dimock, a former assistant director of admissions at the University of Chicago in Illinois and Sarah Lawrence College in New York, says an international student’s chances of getting off the waitlist vary by school.

    “Their likelihood of getting off the waiting list is about as good as any other domestic applicant, considering their own diverse interests and cultural perspectives,” Dimock says.

    In recent years, an average of 4,500 applicants a year have landed on Cornell University’s waitlist. The New York-based school has admitted as many as 190 students from the waitlist and as few as 24, per the school’s website.

    Private colleges and universities are more likely to have waitlists than public schools.

    Some colleges place a small number of students on their waitlist. At Stanford University, approximately 1% of those who apply for admission are offered a place on the school’s waitlist.

    Also, some universities may not use waitlists each year. Gareth Fowles, vice president for enrollment management at Lynn University in Florida, says the school has sometimes had to use a waitlist in the past.

    Lynn doesn’t treat international students differently from domestic students and all applicants are evaluated equally through a holistic admissions review, which considers all aspects of a student’s application, he says.

    Student Visa Considerations

    International students may also be concerned that being wait-listed means they may not have time to secure a visa once they are off the waitlist. However, most colleges admit from their waitlist in time for international students to obtain their student visas, experts say.

    “With regard to the turnaround time for issuing a visa for a wait-listed student, embassies typically can issue visas up to 120 days prior to the start of a program in the U.S. Colleges usually offer waitlisted applicants (admission) after the May 1 regular decision deadline, thus making the visa turnaround time tight but doable,” says Drew Carlson, a retired educational consultant for McMillan Education in Massachusetts.

    Pang applied to every MBA program by round one except for Duke, so although he was wait-listed by multiple schools he received the final admissions decisions by early April. He says this gave him enough time to prepare for the visa application process.

    Financial Aid

    International students should be aware that if they get admitted off a waitlist, they can still get financial assistance and scholarships at schools that offer financial aid to international students, experts say.

    All international students at Lynn “are considered for merit-based aid, even coming off a waitlist,” Fowles says. “Once a student is admitted to Lynn, they will be notified if they qualify for a merit scholarship.”

    Students admitted off the waitlist at Clemson University in South Carolina are considered for need-based financial aid, assuming a FAFSA was completed by the school’s deadline, according to the school’s website.

    Separate from communication of an admissions decision, financial aid offices deliver financial aid and scholarship offers to qualified wait-listed students, Carlson says.

    “It is important that a student who is offered financial assistance is familiar with the package, given that admission offices often require a commitment within 48 hours after they have offered a wait-listed student a spot,” he says.

    Dimock notes that in some cases, international students may have a better chance of moving off the waitlist if they’re not seeking financial aid, “as many colleges who are need-aware love to round out their freshman class with interesting students who also can contribute tuition money.”

    Though Pang says he was offered scholarships by other graduate schools he applied to that didn’t place him on a waitlist – the University of California—Berkeley Haas School of Business offered him $50,000 – he says he started saving for business school once he started working. He says by the time he applied, he had already saved enough to cover a year’s tuition, and his family helped pay for his second year.

    Pang says international students may find placement on a waitlist frustrating, but there is hope.

    “My father always tells me, ‘Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.'” Pang says. “Just give your best effort and leave no regret. And if the school rejects you, it’s their loss.”

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