What to Do if You're Waitlisted for a Class

You’ve made your schedule for the next semester and have all of your desired classes perfectly laid out — but once you go to register, you find that one (or more) is already full. For any student, especially those wishing to finish their degree on time, this can be a substantial setback.

What to do now? Don’t panic; all hope is not lost! There are a few ways you can still try to make your way into the class, despite it having already reached the maximum number of students, but make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with your college’s policies on how to get into waitlisted classes. The first and most important tip is to make sure you don’t cross any boundaries or overlook guidelines your school has already put in place for waitlisted students!

With that being said, here are a few approaches you can take…

Show up anyway

Particularly if it’s a larger class in a lecture environment, showing up on the first day can be an important first step. Some students might be under the impression that the professor will always contact you if a space opens up in the class. While this could be the case occasionally, you never know when a spot might open up at the last minute, so be ready to show up on the first day, prepared, presentable, and ready to take a spot in the class. Also, be ready for the professor to possibly ask you to come to the second day of class, in the event the class has a policy where previously enrolled students who didn’t attend the first day of the class are dropped. If this is the case, the professor may ask waitlisted students to attend the second class day in order to accurately see how many spots will be taken.

[RELATED: Top 5 College Study Tips]

Show the professor you are committed

It is vital to educate yourself on the class and potential material that will be covered to help prove you deserve a spot in the class. If you are fortunate enough to snag that spot, the professor will be giving his or her official sign-off to allow you in the class at the start of the semester, giving you an advantage of having your name and face fresher in the professor’s mind over other students. These circumstances make it key to make a lasting impression the first day of class that will stick in the professor's mind the remainder of the semester.

Be prepared to compete for a spot

To your dismay, you might not be the only student trying to get into the class. Depending on the size of your school and classes, the waitlist may have a limit as to how many students can move ahead on the list and ultimately into the class. Typically, these students are allowed in if registered members of the class drop on or before the first day, or (on occasion) if the professor decides the class can hold a few more students than originally anticipated. This is why it can be so important to show up on the first day, eager to learn and illustrate why you deserve a spot.

Have a backup plan

The unfortunate reality is that all of the students who originally registered for the class could show up on the first day, and the professor might decide the classroom cannot hold any additional students. If this ends up being the case for you, it is crucial to have a backup plan in place. Maybe you signed up for another class to fill its spot in the event you couldn't get in, or maybe there are other classes you were waitlisted for that you can still try to get into. You could also decide to prioritize this class during another semester and use your free time in its absence to focus on another academic area or an organization on campus or in the community.

[RELATED: Avoid These Myths About College Professors]

Regardless of whether you are allotted a spot on the first day of class, putting yourself on the waitlist can pay off. Even if there are a few other students ahead of you, you never know when their plans might change and you could get bumped up on the list! Just remember the importance of educating yourself on the class you are trying to get into, and illustrate to the professor that you will contribute positively to it throughout the course of the semester.


Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.