What Should You Do If Your Child Is Wait-Listed for Private School?

The best thing about finding out your kid was wait-listed at a private school is that it’s not a rejection letter. The worst thing is that it’s not an acceptance letter either. So what exactly does it mean when a private school tells you that your child has been wait-listed?

Being wait-listed is part of the admissions process and it can end up working out wonderfully for your child. Understanding how it works is key. Private schools admit a certain number of kids who may or may not accept a spot at their school. For example, families whose kid is accepted at five schools, can only choose one school so the other four schools will need to fill spots from their wait-lists. Whenever a family declines an offer, the school will look to the wait-list to offer another family acceptance. Some schools have a very high acceptance rate and therefore very few (if any) offers are made to wait-listed families. At other schools, there are a good number of spots offered to families who were initially wait-listed. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if your child will gain admission and if so, how soon that will happen. Many schools will notify families when a wait-list has closed and the class is full.

If your child is wait-listed there are some things you can do to remain on the waitlist with the hope of getting your child admitted. Think of this as a continuation of what was already a long admissions process. If you don’t think you can handle any more admissions stuff, keep reading! Try not to get discouraged. Wait-list acceptances can happen in within a few days of being put on the wait-list, a few weeks or even during the summer.

Here are some tips to move from wait-list to private school acceptance status:

  • 1. Immediately return the school’s postcard or email indicating you’d like to remain on the wait-list.

2. Email or call the admissions director (if the school is closed, leave a message since they are checking voicemail and emails). Let the admissions director know your child was wait-listed. Tell him/her how much your family likes the school. Most importantly, tell him/her that the school is your first choice and you will enroll your child if he/she is offered a space.

3. If you have friends who have written you a recommendation letter, now is the time to ask them to contact the admissions director and communicate your message that if accepted you will enroll your child. Sometimes your contacts/friends don’t know the outcome of your admissions process unless you tell them.

4. How wait-listed students are selected for acceptance depends on the individual school. Wait-lists can be ranked or schools can choose students from a pool of applicants.

5. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear from the admissions director. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the school and they are waiting to know how many parents (if any) will decline their offer and therefore create spaces for wait-listed families.

6. Don’t keep calling or emailing the school! You don’t want to appear high-maintenance, anxious or over-involved, even if that’s how you feel.

7. Be patient. Families are admitted from wait-lists right away and in the summer months or even right before school starts in September.

8. Many great schools DO offer wait-listed families admissions! We know lots of families at many top schools who were initially wait-listed.

9. If the admissions director tells you to accept a spot elsewhere, take that as a hint that your child probably won’t get in.

10. If your child wasn’t accepted at any schools, consider a late application. There are some schools that will accept late applications (they may be under-enrolled or your kid may be exactly what they’re looking for). This isn’t easy to figure out so hiring an education consultant to help you can be well worth the cost.

11. If you have a “back-up” school, don’t give up that option just because your child is wait-listed at another school. A lot of parents will put a deposit on their 2nd choice school, but continue to keep in contact with their 1st choice school where they were wait-listed. Assume that if you get a spot off the wait-list, you will lose your deposit at the other school. There are no refunds for changing your mind.

12. Remain calm, optimistic and professional; don’t have an attitude or seem resentful. An upbeat, positive manner can work in your favor.

13. Persistence and patience can pay off…I’ve seen it many times.