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Getting off the waitlist?


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Going into the last week of March, I had not heard from UNC or UMich.  I emailed both saying, basically, "Sorry to bother you, but I'm writing to ask about my application.  I haven't heard anything yet, and I am assuming this means I'm waitlisted.  Can you confirm that for me?  And if so, is there any way I can visit in the next two weeks, so that I am in a position to make an informed decision if it comes down to the last minute?"


Both schools were very helpful and kind - they even both funded my trip, which was above and beyond I thought.  In addition to the "normal" visit, I also got grilled a bit on my background by the dept chair and the director of graduate studies at both places.  It felt a little interview-ish.  Long story short, I got into both.


Now, it's certainly possible that my visit had nothing to do with Michigan's decision and they just happened to get to me on the waitlist a few days later.  But I know for a fact that it made a difference at UNC, because they made me the offer on the spot at the end of the visit (which I ended up accepting; couldn't be happier).


I don't think this would work for everyone - I have a sort of weird profile, and I think answering their questions may have helped a lot.  However, I think showing enough enthusiasm/commitment to visit may have moved me up the list too; all else being equal, surely they want someone who's likely to accept the offer.


In conclusion:  I have no insider perspective, but I suspect that letting schools know you are interested is a good thing, especially closer to the deadline.

Edited by Statistique
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To add to Statistique's anecdote: on a visit last year, one of my fellow prospectives was a waitlisted student. During the visit, he met with the director to plead his case and was eventually told that he would be admitted conditional on someone else declining their offer, so basically he jumped right to the top of the waitlist. Pleased to say there is a happy ending: I see his name on the department website.


I would guess your chances of moving off the waitlist are much higher when you do what he or Statistique did, especially when there isn't a defined ranking a priori. Some departments are probably more amenable to letting waitlisted students visit (or set up Skype calls) than others, but it seems like you should do whatever you can to help the admissions chair warm to you and convince them that you are seriously interested. (And secondarily, guilt admitted students who won't attend into declining their spots ASAP!)

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