Although the University of California implemented enrollment waitlists for the first time in system history this year, only UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis actually ended up offering a spot to the waitlisted applicants.

Seven UC campuses decided to execute a waitlist for 2010-2011 to cope with the system-wide surge of freshman applicants for Fall Quarter. UCSB and UC Davis in particular accepted wait-listed students after failing to meet enrollment quotas in their first admissions cycle, and placed a combined total of 1,866 out of 10,700 applicants on waitlists.

According to UCSB’s Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson, fluctuating admissions offers in recent years have increased the need for waitlists.

“Lately our yield on admission offers — the percentage of students that take us up on our offer — has fluctuated wildly,” Van Gieson said. “For a long time, it was pretty constant and we could bank on a certain percentage of students accepting our offers. But in the last couple of years, it has been all over the map for not only UCSB but for many of the other UC campuses as well.”

Susan Wilbur, UC’s system-wide director of undergraduate admissions, said this year’s waitlists were implemented in order to admit as many students as possible without over-enrolling each campus — a problem that has troubled the UC in the past.

“In order to help campuses manage more effectively and to enroll as many students as they were funded for, but not over-enroll, we decided to adopt a waitlist policy,” Wilbur said. “This would enable campuses to admit what they thought was the right number of students to get to their target.”

According to Van Gieson, UCSB received around 47,000 freshman applications and admitted approximately 19,000 students this year. An additional 1,200 admission spots were offered to waitlisted students — 400 of whom have now been accepted.

While regular acceptance letters were sent out in mid-March, waitlisted applicants were not sent admission offers until the first week of May, which severely limited the options for the students on those waitlists. According to Van Gieson, waitlisted students were presented with the awkward choice to either accept admissions offers from other universities or stall those offers and wait for a response from a waitlisted campus.

“I do think the waitlist adds yet another layer of complexity, but it is meant to enable us to offer as many spots as we think we have,” Van Gieson said. “I think that the students who really wanted to come here were very thrilled if they got an offer off the waitlist, but many others did find it difficult to cope with all the different kinds of offers.”

Despite the level of stress students must endure, Van Gieson said the use of waiting lists offers second chances to students and allows the Office of Admissions to reach their enrollment target.

“It has been increasingly difficult to predict the number and percentage of students who will accept our admission offers,” Van Gieson said. “If we had not had our waitlists, I’m not sure if we would be enrolling the size class that we had hoped to enroll this fall.”