Waitlist Consideration at SIPA

I have been meaning to shed some light upon how waitlist process is handled by the Admissions Committee SIPA.  I will start off by saying that the process of considering applicants placed on the waitlist can possibly best be described as “organic.”

What I mean by this is that the process of making waitlist offers does not follow a strict format or specific timeline.  Rather, it is a process that has a life of its own due to the fact that availability of seats in the fall class once initial admission offer are sent out is dependent upon factors over which the Committee largely has no control.

To provide some background, this year we have given admitted applicants until April 20th to respond to their offer of admission.  Some admitted applicants have already paid enrollment deposits, however past history shows that the vast majority waits until the very last minute.  Thus we will not have a clear picture of responses for another week or so.  Once the enrollment deposit deadline passes the picture becomes clearer, but the picture is subject to constant change over the summer.

In past years we have made offers of admission to select candidates on the waitlist as early as April and as late as August.  The reason I describe the process as organic is that we never know when a candidate who has paid a deposit will contact us and let us know that circumstances have changed in a way that will not allow them to enroll.

For example, international students sometimes face the unique challenge of trying to complete government paperwork for a Visa.  This process does not always go smoothly and late in the summer we may be notified by a candidate that the paperwork will not be completed on time, thus opening a seat in the fall class.  We have no way to predict this, but with such a large number of international applicants it is not uncommon for this to happen.

For other applicants, something unexpected happens and they contact us to let us know they will not be able to enroll and will thus forfeit their seat.  The Admissions Committee obviously has no way of predicting such circumstances.

So part one of the waitlist story deals with uncertain circumstance and part two of the story is process.  When we are able to make an offer to candidates on the waitlist, how does the process work?

If you are on the waitlist you know that we ask you to fill out a form indicating your interest in remaining on the waitlist.  The vast majority return this form indicating that they do wish to remain on the waitlist, but just like circumstances with admitted applicants change, so do circumstances with waitlist candidates change.

Once the enrollment deposit deadline for admitted applicants passes (April 20th) every few weeks the Admissions Committee will meet to evaluate fall enrollment.  After these meetings I will send out emails to those who have chosen to remain on the waitlist providing them with an update.  At a minimum I try to send out one email per month.

If spaces are available how are waitlist candidates chosen?  Again it is an organic process.  We do not have number rankings for the waitlist and the size of the waitlist changes over time as candidates notify us that they no longer wish to be considered.

When it comes time to consider candidates from the waitlist, files are read once again.  Although a “full read” might not be necessary, Committee members will review reader comment sheets and pay particular attention to areas of concern that were noted during the first review.  As the reading is done, we get a feel for the overall landscape of those on the waitlist and make decisions.

Candidates offered admission from the waitlist receive an email from our office indicating that the decision is available on the application Web site.  Those not offered admission remain on the waitlist and continue to get email updates.

I realize the process of waiting is not easy.  We will do our best to keep those on the waitlist updated, but as you can see, the process does not give us the ability to provide specific answers at specific times.  In summary, if you have chosen to remain on the waitlist we will contact you intermittently with updates, along with asking if you wish to remain on the waitlist.  The Committee will read files of those on the waitlist “as is” – meaning we will not accept additional documents or information for consideration.  Our first update will likely go out before the end of April.

Please also note that SIPA is unable to award fellowship funding to those admitted from the waitlist.  U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents can qualify for Federal and possibly State based aid, but SIPA funding has already been allocated.  I would advise both domestic and international students to review the financial aid information on our Web site so that if we are able to make an offer, you are prepared to complete the appropriate paperwork.