By Reilly Kiernan Senior Writer
Published: Monday, May 12th, 2008
Updated May 12, 2008 2:45 p.m.
When Brian Contratto, a high school senior from San Diego, Calif., found out that he had been waitlisted at Princeton, his first choice for college, he elected to stay on the waitlist, but he wasn’t optimistic.
“I just sent the reply card in indicating that I would like to remain on the waitlist, then kind of pushed the thought to the back of my mind,” he said in an e-mail.
When an admission officer called his cell phone Friday afternoon to inform him that he had been admitted from the waitlist, he was understandably excited. “It’s awesome getting in to Princeton,” he said.
David Crespo, a high school senior from Florida, also got the call. “I wasn’t in their first admit pool,” Crespo said in an e-mail. “Being accepted off of the waiting list means I was right on the edge of being in the first pool.”
Contratto and Crespo are two waitlisted students who were notified in the past week that they would be offered a spot in the Class of 2012. In an interview with The Daily Princetonian today, Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye said that 86 students have already been taken off the waitlist.
Just over 1,000 elected to stay on the University's waitlist, out of the 1,526 students who were originally offered spots on the list, Rapelye said.
This group of 86 students who will have the option of joining the Class of 2012 is already a larger group than the University has taken from the waitlist in recent years. The students will have until the end of the week to accept the offer, Rapelye said.
According to data posted on the Registrar’s website, 1,207 students were waitlisted in spring 2005, and none were accepted into the Class of 2009. In spring 2006, 1,216 were waitlisted, and again, none were accepted. No class as far back as the Class of 2005 had as many as 86 students accepted from the waitlist.
Rapelye also said that in the coming days, more students may be admitted off the waitlist, since it is unclear how many of the 86 will be accepting Princeton's offer.
The fact that other peer institutions are also taking students off their own waitlists could affect Princeton's yield and future waitlist situation as well. "We have no idea right now if any of the students who are already in the class were taken off of the waitlist at one of our competitors and they might want to go there," Rapelye explained.
Rapelye said in an interview last November that there could be “several hundred students” taken off the waitlist this year because of potential fluctuations in yield resulting from the elimination of Early Decision.
Though she had said that the elimination of Early Decision would mean that “the admit rate will go up and the yield will go down,” the admit rate this year dropped to an all-time low of 9.25 percent, down from the previous record of 9.5 percent last year.
Rapelye admitted in an interview in April that the admission rate is “quite conservative.”
Harvard is drawing heavily from its waitlist as well, taking between 150 and 175 additional students in its incoming class, according to a memo sent last Thursday by Harvard College dean of admission William Fitzsimmons.
For students still on Princeton’s waitlist, this year’s numbers are encouraging.
“Obviously it makes me a bit more optimistic about my chances,” Ned Shell, a senior from Philadelphia who is still on the waitlist, said in an e-mail.
Will they come?
For Mitchell Morgan, a senior from Ladysmith, Wis., who was notified last Monday that he had been accepted, the choice was clear.
“Princeton has been my first choice all the way through this process,” he said in an e-mail. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Not all students share his certainty. Those on the waitlist have already committed to another school at this point, and many feel a sense of commitment to their original choice.
“I definitely feel attached,” said Crespo, who is currently committed to the University of Chicago. “I love the University of Chicago and I definitely feel qualms about leaving it.”
For Crespo, the financial aid package he receives from Princeton may be the deciding factor.
“We’re certainly taking finances into account,” he said. He is waiting to make his decision until after he receives his official offer from Princeton on Tuesday.
Contratto, too, is uncertain about his decision. “If I had been accepted to Princeton initially, I would have sent an affirmative response the next day,” he said. “Still, dreams change and Duke really impressed me.”
Contratto committed to Duke after he was waitlisted at Princeton. “I visited Duke during my spring break and fell in love,” he said. “I’ve already gone through the rites of passage: I got a Duke t-shirt, joined the Facebook network, and decided to room with one of my childhood friends.”
“As soon as the admissions officer told me she was calling from Princeton I knew what it was about, and I was kind of balancing excitement and dread,” Contratto said.
Contratto’s final decision, too, will likely depend on financial aid. “My final decision will probably hinge on my financial aid package,” he said. “And I know Princeton is generally tops in that regard.”Waiting with bated breath
For Shell, who is currently committed to Penn, the painful waiting game continues, and he still hopes that his call will come.
“To have this college game go on for, potentially, another three months is aggravating to say the least,” Shell said. “And this time there is no ‘March 31st at 5:00pm.’ The call could come at any time, any day.”
Shell said that being waitlisted has also made him feel resentful toward Princeton. “I am bitter because every morning I wake up thinking ‘today might be the day,’ and needless to say this takes a toll on my nerves,” he said.
Despite this anxiety, Princeton remains Shell’s top choice. “I would absolutely go if I was accepted. I wouldn’t need any time to think about it,” he said. “Bitterness would turn to gratefulness within seconds!”
In the meantime, he will remain in limbo. “I feel that it is cruel, but necessary,” he said. “It keeps me from completely failing in love with Penn, because I still cannot be sure I will go there.”
“It doesn’t matter whether they are admitted in regular decision or off of the waitlist,” Rapelye said in November. “In the end, they are still admitted to Princeton — that’s what counts.”