After its first ever dry run in the University of California’s history, the waitlist system has yielded results – 17 percent of waitlisted students were offered admission.
Of the 10,712 UC applicants placed on a waiting list (unduplicated; some students may have been offered spots on multiple lists), Davis accepted 595 students and Santa Barbara offered admission to an additional 1,271. All other campuses, with the exception of UCLA and Merced, implemented waiting lists but did not admit any of the students they waitlisted.
Frank Wada, executive director of undergraduate admissions and university registrar at UC Davis, explained this discrepancy in terms of enrollment goals.
“Each campus had enrollment targets that would help us maximize the space and resources we had available for incoming students,” Wada said. “As a result, we were able to offer admission to nearly 600 students who normally would have had to go elsewhere. The other campuses, however, were comfortable with where they were at [in terms of enrollment].”
According to Wada, the decision to utilize a waitlist methodology for the first time this year was based on a combination of factors, including reductions in funding, decreased enrollment space and increased competition.
Hoping to enroll up to 4,415 students for fall 2010 and with approximately 42,000 applicants, UC Davis garnered roughly a 45 percent admission rate.
UC Davis also boasts the largest number of waitlist offerings at 5,000 (1,500 of which were accepted) and, of the 595 waitlisted students offered admission, 351 have expressed an intention to enroll in the fall.
Wada described the idea behind UC Davis’ use of a waitlist as offering an opportunity for students to pause and think before making their decision.
“We wanted to not only give students another chance to tell us more about them,” he said, “but we also wanted to ensure that students knew for certain that this is where they wanted to go. The waitlist was the best tool for achieving both the students’ and the University’s goals.”
One of the ways Davis’ waitlist process differed from those of the other campuses is that it required interested students to write an additional 200-word essay explaining why they wanted to come to Davis.
Shirley Chen, a graduating senior from Lowell High School in San Francisco, lamented the use of the method, saying that it was both stressful and discouraging.
“Davis’ waitlist offer sounded more like a rejection and made me a little bit sad,” Chen said. “And then the waiting was the worst. I wish the notification process was quicker so that students wouldn’t have to be so unsure of their college decisions. It was frustrating to have to explain to anyone that asked that I still didn’t know where I was going for college.”
Chen also cited a slew of unanswered questions she and other high school seniors faced due to the waitlist system.
“I didn’t know if I was going to have to pay [registration fees] first, if waitlisting would affect my chances on other waitlists or whether I would still have a good spot for orientation, housing, etc.,” she said.
Hope Fletcher, a senior at Alameda High in Alameda, agreed with Chen’s evaluation, admitting that she was confused by the seemingly inconsistent information she received from the different campuses.
Specifically, Fletcher took issue with the comprehensive review score (CRS) she was given by UC Santa Cruz, a 5,245, which was unusually low considering her above-average GPA and SAT scores.
The CRS is determined by a combination of factors, such as GPA, test scores, honors courses, achievements and geographic location.
“I was extremely disappointed,” Fletcher said. “UCSC was my number one choice for college and I had expected to get in. However, after being waitlisted, I decided to send in my SIR to Davis instead.”
After choosing to enroll at UC Davis, Fletcher received notification from an admissions evaluator at UC Santa Cruz that her CRS had been miscalculated and that her official score was actually a 5,905. Surprised at the news, Fletcher decided to see if she could appeal her admissions decision at UCSC.
“I set up a meeting with the associate director of admissions who told me that there wasn’t space,” Fletcher said. “Even though it hadn’t been my fault, I couldn’t enroll at UCSC until winter quarter of next year.”
Despite the negative experiences endured by some of this year’s waitlist students, Wada insists that it was the most beneficial action that could have been taken in such difficult financial times.
“We wanted to offer admission to as many students as we possibly could,” he said. “Waitlist students are still very excellent students with a strong desire to come here. We tried our best to give them the opportunity to do so.”
KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.