How Waitlists Work

How Waitlists Work


When schools have more applicants than spaces available, a waitlist can be generated for that school. Schools offer a limited number of seats in the lottery, and this number can vary by grade level, school, and school year. Waitlists are active for the school year and do not carry over to the next year. Schools use waitlists to fill seats when they become available, and they make offers to their waitlisted applicants in the order they are listed. There is no guarantee that schools will make waitlist offers. You can also click here to view spaces made available by schools in past lottery years, including historic waitlist length at each school at the time of results. 


Why ranking is important

How you list your schools on the My School DC lottery application impacts where your student is waitlisted. The system functions using the way you ranked school choices as the order in which you would most like your child to go to those schools.


  • If your student is matched to their #1 choice (the school you ranked first), they are not waitlisted at any schools because they were matched to their highest ranked option and our system assumes you prefer that school to any other school you listed on your student’s application.
  • If your student is matched to a school that is ranked below their #1 choice, they are only placed on the waitlists of schools ranked above where they are matched; they will not be waitlisted at the schools ranked below the matched school because the system assumes you prefer the school where you were matched.
  • Students who are not matched through the lottery are waitlisted at all schools listed on their application unless they are found ineligible for that school.


Enrolling your student at their matched school will not remove them off any waitlist. Enrolling at the school secures a seat at your matched school as you wait for a potential offer from a waitlist. 


How waitlists are ordered

Waitlists are ordered by preference group (in-boundary, sibling, etc.) followed by students with no lottery preference for that school.  Each group is ordered by random lottery number. Students who apply after the lottery application deadline are added to waitlists below lottery applicants within the appropriate preference group and are ordered by submission date rather than random lottery number.  


Each school determines which preferences are offered at their school and in what order.  This information can be found on each school’s My School DC profile.


Waitlist movement

At any time, you can log into your family account to see your student’s waitlist position at the schools you applied to in real time. Waitlist positions can move up and down due to post-lottery applicants with preferences added to the list. You can also change the ranking of your schools at any time but this will not change your student’s current position on a list.


Waitlist offers

When a school extends a waitlist offer you will receive an email and / or a phone call. Follow the instructions and deadline set by the school to accept the offer. Missing this deadline can result in your waitlist offer being declined by the school.


If you accept a waitlist offer by enrolling at a school, two things will happen:

  1. You will be giving up your student’s space for the 2020-21 school year at any school where they had previously enrolled. Your student’s current school will be notified that their space may be awarded to another family.
  2. Your student will be removed from the waitlists of all schools ranked below the school where you accepted the waitlist offer.


Adding your student to waitlists

If your student was in not waitlisted at a school you now like more than where they were matched even though you did not rank it higher, you can add your student to the waitlist using your family account during the post-lottery period. Similarly, if your student was removed from a waitlist either because a waitlist offer was declined or your student enrolled at a school ranked higher, you can also add your student back onto the waitlist. In both cases, adding the school will put the student on the waitlist after the lottery applicants already on that list, unless your student has a preference. Log into your My School DC family account to add yourself to waitlists.


Watch this video and read these FAQs to learn more about how waitlists work.