Episode 31: Waitlist Dynamics

Sylvia Robertson checks in to give a brief refresher on how and when applicants are accepted from the waitlist and review some aspects of financial aid offers.

If you have questions for us, please send them to pritzkerquestions@gmail.com. Or, call (773) 336-2POD and leave us a message.

[Music: “The Area” used with permission from Eliot Lipp. “Shiggidy” used with permission from Greg Spero and GMG.]

Episode 31 Transcript

Ben Ferguson: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Episode 31 of the Pritzker Podcast. I am joined by Sylvia. And we’re going to talk today briefly, since May 15th is just around the corner, about some waitlist dynamics and some of the factors that go into picking people off the waitlist and why and when it sometimes moves. So, Sylvia, thanks for being here.

Sylvia Robertson: Absolutely!

BF: So let’s talk about this a bit. Can you just tell us briefly how many people tend to get picked off the waitlist and how many people are on the waitlist in the first place at Pritzker?

SR: Well, that varies widely from year to year. And I know that the question comes out of the desire to be able to predict your chances of getting accepted off a waitlist, and I understand why that’s very important. This is a long process. It’s a process that applicants feel they have very little control in, so I understand why they want to know that. The truth is I can’t answer those questions specifically. There have been years when we’ve taken two or three applicants off the waitlist; there have been years when we’ve taken 30 applicants off the waitlist. And at this point, sitting here before May 15th, I really can’t predict what that will be.

BF: And how many people tend to make up the waitlist overall? Do you know?

SR: Again, that varies. We expect that there will be about between 150 and 200 on the waitlist when we form that at the end of May. And I do want everybody to know that we are on track to achieving that goal of having the waitlist letters out to everyone by the end of May. We were later than that last year and we regret that that was difficult for some applicants, but we’re on track to get that out by the end of May this year.

BF: Awesome. And I think another question that people have is how do people come off the waitlist? Is it ranked and they are just sort of picked off the top, or do you guys continuously review these applications and make those decisions as they come up?

SR: It is not ranked in any way. And as you can imagine, there are many variables that go into the decision to take somebody off the waitlist, and that changes at different points in the year. I want to be certain everybody understands that I’m not trying to be evasive. I’m actually being very open and honest. But that’s the truth, that the reason for the waitlist decisions vary at different times in the year. Schools that students are holding are a factor. So if a student has told us during the interview process that they really want to go to another school and we see that they are accepted at that school, it’s not likely that we’re going to make them an offer unless they tell us that they’ve changed their mind and they want to come to Pritzker instead. And so that highlights something that’s very important is that if you’re on the waitlist and you continue to be interested in Pritzker, you need to let us know that.

BF: Okay. I think another sort of interesting question that people have is how late can people come off the waitlist? Is there some deadline where they should give up all hope or should they keep hope alive for the entire summer?

SR: Yeah. Well, this is a place where people have control. If they are holding an offer at a school that begins before Pritzker, then they should let us know how close to the start date of that other school they would be willing and able to consider an offer from us. So, for example, if they’re starting at a school on July 1st and they decide that it would really make their life just too difficult if we made an offer after June 1st to them, that they really could not accept an offer from us at that point, then they should let us know that June 1st is the last that they could hear from Pritzker. So that’s one way that they can control getting the decision from us. And then our committee will be very honest and will give them the best decision we can at the date that they say. In terms of how late in the year you can get an offer from Pritzker? To be honest, it’s the day orientation begins, and this year that’s August 5th. That’s very unusual, but it has happened. And so that’s the truthful answer.

BF: That would be a nice little early Christmas present.

SR: Yeah.

BF: And then–sorry, go ahead.

SR: Yeah, I just know that this is a difficult process, and we very much appreciate our Pritzker applicants and their patience in this process.

BF: Yeah. It definitely pays to be patient. I can tell you that.

SR: Yeah.

BF: Just to switch gears a little bit, I know money is sometimes an issue for people, and I know we’ve talked about this a lot on the podcast but it’s worth reviewing. So when people get accepted, then that’s sort of when they start to hear about financial aid packages and so forth. Do people getting off the waitlist, do they sort of get a short shrift in some respect in terms of getting notified about financial aid packages?

SR: No. We understand that people who are taken from the waitlist have a decision to make and they need to make it quickly, and so while it’s not likely that we would send the financial aid decision with the offer, it is likely that we would be able to get a decision to a waitlist candidate within a week. That’s of course if their FAFSA has already been filed with our school code, but hopefully within a week because we know that they are under pressure to make a decision quickly. Waitlist candidates are not disadvantaged in the process of awarding financial aid. The variables are the same. We appreciate their commitment to us. We certainly don’t see them as students who are going to contribute any less in the future, so they are given the same consideration for financial aid.

BF: Sure. And I know there’s been some examples of people who have gotten full rides coming off the waitlist or substantial financial aid packages in addition to those who were accepted during the normal admission season. Is that something that is possible to happen? Or I guess my question is how often does that happen?

SR: It certainly does not happen very often. As a matter of fact, the concept of a full ride at Pritzker just doesn’t happen unless it’s for an MSTP or an MD/PhD student who would get tuition and living expenses. But otherwise, that just honestly is not the way that we award scholarship dollars. We do see that young physicians are able to manage a certain level of debt, and given the cost of attending medical school, the cost of living expenses seems reasonable so that we can have more scholarship dollars to ensure that everybody who is able to come to this med school can afford to. Ben, did that make sense?

BF: Yeah. So I guess the concept of a full ride really refers to like a full tuition scholarship and not all expenses paid, I guess?

SR: Right. We do not have full ride scholarships for MD students at Pritzker, if a full ride is defined as free tuition plus living expenses.

BF: Okay. Hey, Chicago is not the most expensive place to live, I think.

SR: I agree.

BF: Yeah. Could be worse.

SR: To see yourself as the capital in the investment you’re making in your future in going to med school and you’ll be able to pay back a reasonable amount of debt.

BF: Yes. Exactly.

SR: I also want to be sure people understand that our scholarship program, particularly merit scholarship program, is a relatively young one, and so we do not have the resources of many of our main competitors in terms of scholarships. And so there are students who come to Pritzker very happily each year but who are not awarded a need-based or a merit-based scholarship. And so I want to be certain to correct the impression that you should not take a lack of eligibility for scholarship from Pritzker as a lack of enthusiasm from us.

BF: Sure. All right, any last-minute advice for people who have five days left of waiting? Is there anything they can do to enhance their chances?

SR: Well, I would encourage them to tell their friends who are holding multiple offers to withdraw–

BF: Get on it!

SR: –get on it, to withdraw from the schools where they are not going to attend. I would encourage the students on our continued list to send us updates, to let us know that they’re still interested. And if they’re not still interested, to let us know that as well because they are in the same position as those holding accepts in terms of the students who are eager to be moved on to our waitlist.

BF: And how do you like to see those? Are those typically formal sheet letter–sorry, mails or emails?

SR: Emails are the best thing at this point. And sending them directly to me is the best thing at this point.

BF: Okay. Sounds good. Thank you very much, Sylvia. Hopefully this helps some people understand the process a little bit better.

SR: Ben, thank you. You are just the–our applicants are so fortunate to have your dedication.

BF: Thanks very much. Talk to you soon.

SR: Take care. Bye bye!

BF: Bye.