I wrote about the waitlist twice last year, so I'm going to borrow heavily from those entries to give some information about how it works.
On Monday, we will start taking "decision calls" in our office (prepare for making one of these calls by reading this post). Those are calls, usually from parents, asking why we made the decision we did for a certain student. For the first two weeks of the month, the calls are almost non-stop. The most popular question: "Why was my child waitlisted?"
Prior to my arrival at UVa, I worked in the private college sector where we didn't entertain these conversations at all (and not many people called to question our decisions). However, at a state school, we try to be responsive to our constituents and respond to each and every call.
Here's what I think about the waitlist at UVa: It's big. There's no way around that because there are so many different segments within the class to which we have to pay attention. 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 last year) and as a result, we always worry that a tiny fraction of the students who receive an offer will accept us back. Our dean remembers 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 sizable 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.
If you accept a spot on our waitlist, you are not bound to us. You should send a deposit to another school by May 1st to secure a spot in another class. At this point, we don't know when we will go to the waitlist, as we rely on the responses of admitted students to do that.