I was wondering if there is a rule of thumb for the following.

What percentage of students that are accepted for a PhD position were initially put on a waiting list, and were only admitted after high-scoring applicants did not enroll?

  • 2
    My department doesn't have a waiting list.
    – JeffE
    May 22, 2012 at 15:15
  • 3
    This could vary a lot between departments, and it seems unlikely that anyone would have a dataset including more than a few departments. May 22, 2012 at 15:32
  • 1
    Probably not the best answer (probably not even an answer) : On places like gradcafe, I've seen much more of "Rejected after Waitlisted" than accepted in my field (Engineering). Again, this is not an answer, just a relevant observation.
    – user107
    May 22, 2012 at 18:09
  • thanks, but I'm looking for the percentage of accepted students that was on a waiting list, not the percentage of waiting list students getting a position. Although this would also be interesting to look at. May 22, 2012 at 18:37
  • @bquast I implicitly meant > Really Low. If you get waitlisted, chances are slim. (Again, this is NOT an answer but just a trend I've noticed).
    – user107
    May 22, 2012 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


This will depend upon the department, but I would expect that relatively few students would be admitted via a waitlist. Departments usually have a pretty good estimate of how many students who they accept will take their offer and enroll in their program.


We don't have a wait list, and actually make more offers than slots, because of the historical hit rate that we have with admissions. Some years, this comes back to bite us, but it all averages out.

A practical matter with waitlists is that you have to wait till Apr 15 before moving to the wait listed students. But by then, they've often accepted a position elsewhere.

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