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How does a waitlist work


gradapplicant15

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I think they usually have a ranking. If only one spot opens up, they probably already know who they will give the next acceptance letter to. If you're very high on the list, it means you probably have a decent shot of getting an offer, because you don't need as many people to decline their acceptances as somebody who is lower down.

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MathCat's description is one version of how a waitlist could work. 

 

However, I know that some programs do not operate waitlists in this manner. Especially programs that admit smaller numbers, they want to make sure they get a balance of students. So, the waitlist might actually be several waitlists for different subfields/PIs etc. Or, the waitlist might not be "ranked" at all, and after they hear enough students decline (and need to make more offers), the committee might meet again and revisit the waitlist to decide who gets offers now, based on the earlier decisions. 

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MathCat's description is one version of how a waitlist could work. 

 

However, I know that some programs do not operate waitlists in this manner. Especially programs that admit smaller numbers, they want to make sure they get a balance of students. So, the waitlist might actually be several waitlists for different subfields/PIs etc. Or, the waitlist might not be "ranked" at all, and after they hear enough students decline (and need to make more offers), the committee might meet again and revisit the waitlist to decide who gets offers now, based on the earlier decisions. 

Yes, I think it could definitely work this way as well, especially in a field where you are admitted to work with a specific person or group. Most math programs don't expect you to commit to anything from the beginning, so that influenced my assumption of how it works.

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Yes, I think it could definitely work this way as well, especially in a field where you are admitted to work with a specific person or group. Most math programs don't expect you to commit to anything from the beginning, so that influenced my assumption of how it works.

 

This might just be pedantic now, but even in fields where you are not admitted to a specific group, you would still have some kind of research focus (experiment vs. theory, for example). Admissions committees might still want balance in factors such as research interests, diversity, or preparation (in multi-disciplinary fields like planetary science, maybe they don't want a cohort that are all physicists, or all chemists, or all geologists etc.), just to name a few.

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