A Few Tips If Your Child Is Wait-Listed (updated)



I’m updating this previous post since I’ve been hearing that this year (2016-17) is one of the most competitive for L.A. private elementary school admissions. That probably means more kids will end up on wait-lists than in a less competitive year. A frequently asked question is, “Does a wait-list notification really mean NO or does it actually mean my child has been put on a wait-list?”

Some schools definitely use a wait-list notification as a polite way to say “no” to an applicant. It’s hard to know which schools do this, but all kinds of rumors abound on this topic. Since you’ll never really know, the best approach if you’re interested in a school that has wait-listed your child is to consider a few factors. First, there are some schools that are very popular, very small and/or have their own preschool and therefore have a very high acceptance rate. In this situation, the school may or may not accept anyone off the wait-list. And, siblings and legacies at certain schools fill up spaces, making it impossible for the school to accept wait-listed kids. These schools aren’t the majority. I can think of 5 or so off the top of my head (including secondary schools). Most private schools in L.A. do accept kids from their wait-lists every year. Just talk to parents at schools and you’ll find this to be true. I’ve gotten wait-list letters so I know what it is like. Not the news you want!

Most likely, it’s been a long few months. Goodness knows you really want the private elementary school application process to end. But, if your child is wait-listed at a school you really like, you’ll need to continue with the process.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Call or email the admissions director immediately. Tell him or her you’re still very hopeful a spot will open up. Remind him/her how much you love the school. Let the admissions director know the school is your top choice and you’ll enroll your child if they offer you a spot. You are ready to write the deposit check!
  • Have your friends or parents you know at the school contact the admissions director and reiterate the same message: you’ll enroll your child if offered a spot.
  • Don’t be alarmed 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.
  • Don’t keep calling or emailing the school! You don’t want to appear panicked or over-involved, even if that’s how you feel.
  • Be very patient. Families are admitted from wait-lists right away and in the summer months.
  • Schools DO offer wait-listed families admissions! We know lots of families at many top schools who were initially wait-listed.
  • If the admissions director tells you to accept a spot elsewhere, take that as a hint that your child probably won’t get in.
  • 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.
  • Keep your cool and don’t have an attitude or seem resentful. Being wait-listed is part of the process and it can end up working out for your child.
  • Patience and persistence can pay off…we’ve seen it many times.

Good luck! Christina


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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of two kids who attended The Willows School in Culver City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas. My daughter is a graduate of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ('23) and my son is a sophomore at UPenn/Wharton ('26). I live in Coldwater Canyon with my husband, Barry, and our dogs. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

9 thoughts to “A Few Tips If Your Child Is Wait-Listed (updated)”

  1. Thank you for all the helpful tips throughout the year. I applied to 7 schools. My little one was accepted to 4 and wait listed at 3.

    Two of the schools that accepted my child sent an acceptance letter but made no mention of the financial aid I requested. Is this normal?

    1. Hi Nancy, I have heard of acceptances without offers of financial aid. I’d suggest you contact the school to inquire about their decision regarding financial aid. If your child was wait-listed, then financial aid decision would most likely come if he/she was accepted off the wait-list. Congratulations on the acceptances and good luck!

  2. I received 2 waitlist letters. Our first choice waitlist email included a link requesting that we complete a waitlist pool response indicating our interest in placement if a space becomes available. The 2nd letter did not include that. Is that the norm?

    1. Hi Rene, every school handles wait-lists differently. What’s important is that you let the school know you’ll accept the spot if offered. Respond to the link, if there isn’t one, send an email to the AD or call, letting them know you’ll accept a spot off the wait-list.

      1. Hi, is it best to contact the Admissions Director or Associate Admissions Director? I contacted 1 school and the assistant stated it was a extremely competitive year with limited space.

        1. Hi Rene, it’s totally fine to contact the associate admissions director. I’ve head this year was super-competitive.

    1. Hi Jenna, I think letting the admissions director know how much you want the same wonderful experience you had at the school for your own child is a great place to start. Let the AD know you will accept the spot if it is offered!

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