Few UC applicants on waiting lists offered spots

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After much anxiety among high school seniors, relatively few applicants were offered fall freshman admission to a University of California campus this month under the UC system’s first widespread use of waiting lists.

About 10,700 applicants last month were offered a spot on one or more waiting lists compiled by the seven UC campuses that participated in the new, and controversial, practice. But only UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara ultimately offered entrance to anyone on the lists, officials said. And of those 1,866 acceptances, just 780 students have decided to enroll at either of the two campuses.

The final tally of enrollments from the waiting lists is less than 1% of the 100,320 applicants to UC this year, statistics show. Yet, UC admissions experts said that the waiting lists were a valuable tool to manage enrollment during the state budget crisis and that they expected the lists to be used next year and beyond.

UC officials also emphasized that everyone on a waiting list had already been offered a spot at another UC campus. In many cases, however, that meant being admitted to the newest and smallest UC campus, at Merced, even if the student had not originally applied there.

“I think it worked pretty well,” Susan Wilbur, UC’s director of undergraduate admissions, said of the wait lists. “I would be surprised if we didn’t continue in this direction.” ( UCLA and UC Merced did not use the lists this year.)

Students and high school counselors criticized the process for dragging out the tense admissions season and for adopting a practice more common at private colleges. In the end, the late offers made some teenagers happy.

Cameron Massoudi, who attends Irvine’s Northwood High School, said he was upset to be placed on UC Davis’ lengthy waiting list and decided last month to go with a solid acceptance from UC Santa Cruz. Then earlier this month, UC Davis offered him enrollment and he decided to switch.

“It would have been nice to know early on,” Massoudi, 18, said Friday. “But it’s better to get in now than to be denied.”

UC officials said there would be a certain amount of churning as students jump from one UC campus to another because of wait list acceptances. But no additional freshman class spots will be opened, they said.