How Waitlists Work

How Waitlists Work


When schools have more applicants than spaces available, a waitlist is created 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. Schools use waitlists to fill seats when they become available, and they make offers to their waitlisted applicants in order. There is no guarantee that schools will make waitlist offers, however. Waitlists are active for the school year and do not carry over to the next year. 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 rank the schools on your application lets the lottery system know the order in which we should try to match you to those schools. The lottery system also uses this information to place your student on the waitlists for schools you ranked higher than where your student is matched.  

  • If your student is matched to their #1 choice (the school you ranked first), they are not waitlisted at the other schools on your list because our lottery system assumes that you prefer that school over the others on your 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. This is because your school rankings show that you prefer the school you are matched to over the others ranked below it on your application.
  • 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.

The two exceptions to the above statements are:

  • If a DCPS selective high school or program finds a student ineligible, or if a student does not meet the language proficiency requirements for a dual language program, they will not be waitlisted, regardless of how the student ranked the school.
  • After being matched an applicant will be placed on the waitlist for any school their sibling is matched to even if the school was ranked below where they are matched.

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 deadlines are added to waitlists below lottery applicants within the appropriate preference group and are ordered by submission date.  


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. Click here to learn how lottery preferences work.


Waitlist movement

Log into your family account to see your student’s waitlist positions in real time. Your student’s waitlist number can move up and down as post-lottery applicants with preferences apply. They will also move up and down due to the nature of the sibling offered preferences: one child receiving a waitlist offer at a school may result in their sibling moving up on the waitlist.  At any time you can change the ranking of your schools after lottery results are released if your ranking preferences change, but this does not change your student’s 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 no longer want to send your student to that school, you can decline the offer.


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

  1. You will give up your student’s space for the 2024-25 school year at any school where they were 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 on their application


Adding your student to waitlists

After lottery results are released, you can add your student to additional schools’ waitlists by adding schools to your student’s existing application – including schools you previously applied to, but where you are not currently waitlisted or matched. No matter your reasoning, when you add your student to schools’ waitlists after the lottery they will be placed on the waitlist after lottery and post-lottery applicants already on that list unless they have a preference at the school. 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.