I guess I should lead this off by saying this blog is about my take on the admission process. Please do not interpret my blog as the gospel according to UVA.
Here's what I think about the waitlist at UVA. It's big. There's no way around that. We have to bring in a class that will maintain that 2/3 : 1/3 ratio for Virginian and non-Virginian students. So, think of the waitlist as two main groups, in state and out of state. Next, consider that we have to fill four different schools within the university: College of Arts & Sciences (CLAS), School of Engineering (SEAS), School of Architecture (SARC) and School of Nursing.
Now, we don't break up the waitlist into smaller groups, so don't think of this as eight separate waitlists. It's still just one bunch with no ranking.
By May 1st, all the admitted students are supposed to have mailed their enrollment confirmations, saying that have either accepted or rejected our offer of admission. It usually takes a week for all of those letters to get to us. Only when the enrollment confirmations are counted do we know what will happen with the waitlist. We might realize that the Architecture school needs a few more students or that there's room in the College for a few. While keeping the in-state/out of state ratio in mind, we then go to the waitlist.
The time between April 1st and May 1st is always an uneasy one for us. It seems as though students are applying to more schools than ever (I met a student who applied to 20 at my last institution) and as a result, we always worry that a tiny fraction of the students who receive an offer will accept us back. Just yesterday at our retreat, our dean told us about a time when he'd accept just a few hundred more than the class needed because yield wasn't a huge issue. People were applying to 1-3 schools back then, so if they got accepted to a school, the odds were high that they were going there. Because of the uncertainty on the yield side, we have to maintain a sizeable waitlist.
Yes, the waitlist is still quite large. I wish we didn't have it at all. I remember the state of limbo I was in as a waitlisted student a one of my top picks. Thankfully, I wasn't admitted and wound up where I belonged.
For a future post: Why I think everyone feels the need to apply to 20 schools.