What are my chances of getting off Carnegie Mellon’s waitlist?

By Maxine Seya

What are my student’s chances of getting off of Carnegie Mellon’s waitlist?

– Warren, a college consultant from Texas

Waitlists can be really frustrating, especially this year. No one wants any more uncertainty than has been caused by the coronavirus.

Carnegie Mellon offers two waitlists: Priority and regular. Those who opt into the Priority waitlist should have decided on Carnegie Mellon as their top choice. Priority waitlisters will hear back by May 8, 2020, just a week after the May 1 deadline for Regular Decision admits to respond.

Opting in isn’t difficult — you just fill out a form and write a response to the prompt, “What additional information or updates would you like to share with Carnegie Mellon? Is there anything else you’d like to bring to our attention about your application?”

Students who aren’t sure if Carnegie Mellon is their first choice should opt into the regular waitlist. CMU will respond by June 1, 2020.

It’s crucial to understand what this part really means. This is taken directly from the letter that waitlisted students received this year:

“It is important for you to know that every year some students are successful in gaining admission from the waiting list. Because of your qualifications, we are offering you the opportunity to be placed on our priority waiting list. If you choose to participate in our priority waiting list option, you will be among the first students admitted to Carnegie Mellon from the waiting list.”

We recently interviewed an admissions director at Carnegie Mellon who provided an insider peek at their waitlist procedure. Though Deborah Foell-McDowell was an active CMU admissions director at the time of interview, she no longer works at Carnegie Mellon as of spring 2020.

Here are the 6 truths behind Carnegie Mellon waitlists:

  1. Carnegie Mellon waitlists more students than are admitted to a program.
      • Deborah told us, “We also waitlist an inordinate number of students. So we run a waitlist for every single academic college. That means that there are more students who are waitlisted sometimes than are admitted to a program.”

  2. Everyone is offered the Priority waitlist opportunity, even though the letter’s wording makes you feel like you were specially invited.
    • Every single student who is waitlisted is offered the opportunity to opt into the priority waitlist. If you spend time digging into this, you’ll see that students think it’s special that they’re given this option. Every student is given the option to opt into the priority waitlist.”

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.