What are Courtesy Waitlists?

Question: I have heard the term “Courtesy Waitlist.” What does this mean and how do I know if I am on one?

Although admission folks may insist otherwise, some colleges practice what is know as “Courtesy Waitlisting.” This is when students who ordinarily would be rejected outright are, instead, added to the waitlist for a variety of reasons.

Often, these denizens of admissions purgatory are the children of alumni and VIP’s. Sometimes, they are applicants who have overcome great obstacles in life, and admission officials want to to send an encouraging word rather than the harsh blow of denial. Courtesy waitlisting may also be used to show respect for a high school counselor who has advocated vigorously for a particular candidate who, nonetheless, never made the final cut.

So, if you are on a waitlist right now, ask yourself if you might be a courtesy kid. If so, you’re not entirely out of luck, but your odds of success may be even steeper than those of other applicants who are also lost in limbo-land.