Effective Practices : Enrollment


Wait List Management
Enrollment Section 6

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1. Does your school employ a wait list for future enrollment? If so, what are your requirements for placing a student on the waiting list?
2. Who is responsible for maintaining the wait list?
3. Does your school use a ranked or unranked waiting list? If an unranked waiting list is used what method is used to select students for the class when an opening occurs?
4. Is a fee charged to add a student to the waiting list? Is this fee refundable or non-refundable? Applied toward the enrollment fees or tuition?
5. What type of management information is produced on a regular basis with regard to the wait list? Who receives the report, what data is included, and what is the purpose of publishing the data?
6. Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices, and procedures in the area of wait list management.
7. What is particularly effective in your work with wait list management?
8. If you could change some aspect of your work with wait list management, what would you change and why?

ENR 6-1

Does your school employ a wait list for future enrollment? If so, what are your requirements for placing a student on the waiting list?
Every school employs a wait list for future enrollment. In most schools a family must have completed an application for admission and paid all the normal application related fees. About half of the schools surveyed report that they interview all students who apply and anyone who would not be accepted into the class is so notified and barred from inclusion on the waiting list. Often these schools ask a family if they would like to remain on the waiting list; some have a form they require the family to complete if they wish to stay on the wait list. The other half of the schools only interview applicants if there is space available.

ENR 6-2

Who is responsible for maintaining the wait list?
The Enrollment Director, often with the support of the Registrar, is the individual responsible for maintaining the wait list. Typically completed applications for inclusion on the wait list are given by the Enrollment Director to the Registrar for entry into the wait list database. Any applicable wait list fees are forwarded to the Business Office by the Registrar, and then the application packets are returned to the Enrollment Director for inclusion in a pending application file.

ENR 6-3

Does your school use a ranked or unranked waiting list? If an unranked waiting list is used what method is used to select students for the class when an opening occurs?
All schools surveyed use an unranked waiting list, sometimes referred to as the waiting pool. At the time an opening occurs the applications are weighted and interviews/acceptances are made on this basis. All schools mentioned the importance of explaining the unranked waiting list to families so that they understand that a variety of factors other than the date the application was received play into the admissions decision.

While each school has slightly different criteria, the following list of criteria show the order in which one school interviews students from its waiting list:

  • A current student who should be moved to a higher or lower class (a rare occurrence)
  • A child of a teacher or staff member at the school,
  • A student with a sibling already enrolled at the school,
  • A legacy student (child of a current or former Waldorf teacher, child of a former Waldorf student, or relative of a current parent),
  • A student transferring from another Waldorf school,
  • A child of a Waldorf teacher at another school, and
  • The date in which remaining students were placed on the waiting list.

ENR 6-4

Is a fee charged to add a student to the waiting list? Is this fee refundable or non-refundable? Applied toward the enrollment fees or tuition?
Most schools do not charge an additional fee to be placed on the waiting list, but do require that families have a complete application file and have paid the application fee. One school reported charging a non-refundable $100 fee to offset the costs of maintaining files on the wait list.

ENR 6-5

What type of management information is produced on a regular basis with regard to the wait list? Who receives the report, what data is included, and what is the purpose of publishing the data?
Those schools with few names on their wait lists tend to publish the information only occasionally during the school year. Schools with active wait lists generally include summary information on the number of students on the wait list for each grade on their weekly enrollment status reports. This summary data goes to the office staff, class teachers and sponsors, and the Board of Trustees. More detailed information is also tracked by student and by area of the school (early childhood, lower school, and high school). The information tracked varies by area of the school due to the different requirements of the faculty for applying students. While the data tracked varies slightly from school to school the following descriptions give a general overview of the type of information tracked:

On the early childhood list the information includes the student’s name, telephone number, birth date, first grade class they will be in, if they have attended an orientation, date application received, when they would like to start, and notes including which teacher will interview the student. The notes also include any information about legacy status or other related data.

In the grades the information includes the student’s name and telephone number, birth date, the class teacher’s name, the application date, whether the student application has been completed, teacher recommendation and transcript receipt status, date of the interview, requested start date, and any notes.

In the high school the information includes the student’s name, telephone number, birth date, grade, application date, student application receipt status, teacher recommendation and transcript status, student work samples, their entrance test date, interview date, requested start date, notes and what school the student has been attending.

These lists are used to track the student application process, helping to ensure complete applications and timely interviews when openings occur.

ENR 6-6

Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices, and procedures in the area of wait list management.
The teachers need complete applications before they interview. It’s easy to get confused with so many pieces of paper, and the parents want their student to be remembered and interviewed on a timely basis. Professional management of the wait list helps ensure that the school and the parent’s needs are met.

The school employs a waiting pool, rather than a list that is based on first in/first out. This process serves the school and the students by finding the best match between the new student and the existing class.

Review your wait list regularly and keep in contact with these people. Send them your newsletters and invite them to events. Make phone calls from time to time to ensure people wish to remain on the list.

The school does its best to let people know what the likelihood is that an opening will occur in the class, and frequently advises prospective families that they should be looking elsewhere.

There is a fine line between keeping a family fully informed and managing the school’s interest in creating full classes. This is a delicate balancing act which is best supported by keeping firmly to acceptance deadlines so that families can be informed reasonably promptly as to whether it looks like an opening will occur.

The Enrollment Director tries to ascertain why the family wants to change schools and what the student’s needs are so that families who should be redirected to a school that can better serve their needs are identified early on in the process and not placed on the wait list needlessly.

It is important to work with teachers to crystallize the criteria they will use to evaluate the waiting list applicants. It is difficult to discuss issues such as priority for Waldorf transfer students and enrolled sibling preference in the moment; these conversations are best had up front so that teachers are well grounded in the various aspects that should be considered in making acceptance decisions.

Siblings and transfers from other Waldorf schools receive priority for purposes of wait pool consideration.

Explain to families that are on the waiting list how it works. That is, let them know that this is not a ranked list nor is it first come first served. Be sure they understand what it means to be in this applicant pool.

While it can generate significant additional work, our school believes it is preferable to be proactive in a wait list situation, and to interview students even if there is no opening so that families don’t stay on the wait list for a long time when there is no real hope that there will be a match for that student and the school. It also expedites the process when openings occur over the summer when teachers are out of town so that acceptances can be handled promptly.

Whenever possible the official wait list notification letter should be accompanied by a personal phone call from the Enrollment Director. This allows a determination to be made as to whether a family is willing to stay on the wait list or whether the application should be considered closed.

ENR 6-7

What is particularly effective in your work with wait list management?
The application process has great clarity, which is a help to applying families and to the teachers.

Timeliness in the process ensures that everyone involved knows when things will happen.

The school can generate a real feeling of warmth by reaching out through a phone call to families that are placed on the wait list.

The school has a form that allows families to make a clear indication of their interest in remaining on the wait list. That form must be returned in a timely way if the student is to be placed on the wait list.

Good communication is a key, both with teachers as changes are developing in their classes and with families as their needs change.

The school works hard not to put families on the list if the reality is that there is little chance of a student being admitted. Having a complete application (with reference letters and a copy of a student’s recent progress reports) helps with this early assessment.

The Enrollment Director does a good job of keeping the waiting list in front of teachers. The list is used!

Having the flexibility of an unranked list is very helpful and works well for the school.

Having a clear wait list priority is very effective.

Although the detailed wait list is useful and needed information, it is also helpful to be able to get a clear snapshot of the wait list status by looking at a one page report.

ENR 6-8

If you could change some aspect of your work with wait list management, what would you change and why?
Pushing up the re-enrollment schedule so it is completed by early February would help the wait list situation greatly. Families need to make decisions for their children for the coming year, and cannot always wait for the school’s decision if it is made later in the school year.

It would be wonderful if there were really good schools that the Enrollment Director could refer students to when there isn’t enough room. It’s hard to say no and disappoint the many wonderful families that want a Waldorf education.

The letters notifying parents that there was no room in the class should be personalized. The bad news that a student has not been accepted is difficult enough, and adding an impersonal letter on top of that is hurtful to some families.

The use of the wait list is a matter of time and attention. If we had more time it would be preferable to stay in closer contact with families on the waiting list (phone calls versus form letters, etc.)

It would be helpful to have a clear and more consistent process for communicating with teachers as they interview students from the wait list. Each teacher has a different preference for the way in which this is handled, and it is sometimes difficult to manage such a variety of preferences.


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