A waitlist shouldn’t last the semester

Isabelle Costello

Even though I want to consistently push myself outside the box as a student, it shook me up when I didn’t get into the Freshman Research Initiative, a program for College of Natural Sciences students that allows them to engage in science-based research alongside professors and other undergraduates. I wasn’t flat out rejected, though — I was waitlisted. Not jarring enough for a crisis, but just unsettling enough to shake my confidence. 

As the weeks of the fall semester came and went, my naive hope for eventual entrance into the program steadily dropped. I figured that I simply wasn’t interesting enough for acceptance or a follow-up –– that is, until the subject came up in conversation during my First-Year Interest Group meeting one morning. I discovered that over half of the group was in the exact same position as me.

All of these students, including myself, were told that they had been put on a waitlist and would be contacted in the future regarding placement and never heard back. The issue at hand here does not lie in the capability of the applicants but rather in the lack of clear cutoffs and communication on the part of the FRI.

The Freshman Research Initiative program needs to establish a formal cutoff date for students that have been placed on the waitlist each semester. The limbo of a semester-long waitlist is detrimental in terms of planning and personal confidence for freshman students.

“We do not have a cutoff date, as seats in FRI do become available up to the first class day in the spring to serve waitlisted students,” FRI communications coordinator Elizabeth Ilardi said in an email. 

While the general idea of keeping an open waitlist throughout the fall semester makes sense in theory, there are serious issues when put into practice.

FRI functions as a unique course that students register for and add to their schedules. Assuming that students will be willing and able to add a course throughout the midst of the fall semester or into the spring semester ignores the time and careful preparation that students put into crafting four-year plans and semester schedules. 

Coursework aside, there also comes a point where students have to prioritize extracurricular activities and weigh the importance of potential jobs and internships versus the FRI opportunity they may still be eligible for. Without a deadline, though, at this point in the semester when course registration is looming, students are left anxious as to whether or not their waitlist spot deserves considerable thought.

“I would prefer to have been denied because I could have focused on something else,” neuroscience freshman Griselda Davila said.

Staying on a waitlist for the duration of an entire semester also perpetuates the standard of STEM students second-guessing themselves, rather than allowing them to face the initial disappointment of not getting accepted and then moving on. 

“I just felt like I wasn’t good enough,” Davila said. “It was really discouraging.”

FRI’s current process of waitlisting students indefinitely sends the message that easier registration on their end is prioritized over clarity and student peace of mind. For a program that is intended to prepare its students for the real world, FRI is falling short. 

Set the example and have hard conversations. If you expect us to follow your example in our future careers, it’s only fitting that you take the first step.

Costello is a neuroscience freshman from Boerne, TX.