How to Navigate Class Waitlists

What is a "waitlist," how does it happen, and what should students do?
March 9, 2023

When class’s registration is full, a "waitlist" is created to provide students still hoping to take the class a first-come, first-served basis to register if seats become available. Being waitlisted can happen for many reasons—registering too late for the class, the priority registration of more senior students, class popularity or other circumstances—and it impacts most students at least once during their college career. But being waitlisted rarely affects graduation timing unless it frequently occurs. Often students on a class waitlist will find that seats open up in their preferred class as other students drop. Significant waitlists may cause new class sections to be added.

We encourage students who are waitlisted to consider the following helpful suggestions.

5 Steps to Stay on Track for Graduation

  1. Know in advance which classes are required for the degree program and when they are offered. Students can use degree plans to confirm the frequency and semester of course offerings.
  2. Know when registration opens and enroll as soon as possible.
  3. If a class is full, get on the waitlist right away. In most cases, once a seat opens in the class, the next student on the waitlist will be automatically enrolled.
  4. Talk with an advisor to find class alternatives and adjust degree plans to ensure the preferred class can be taken during another semester.
  5. Monitor Stout emails. Students will receive an automated email if they are enrolled from the waitlist into the class.

Keep an Eye on Access Stout

Access Stout is where students can check on their “transition placement number” (aka, their place on the waitlist), and students can check their status as frequently as they want. We recommend checking the list each day to see if a student has moved up in line and if they are closer to getting placed. The transition placement notice will say something like: “Waitlist in position number 5.”

Always Have a Backup Plan

Although many students do move from a waitlist to being enrolled, they should always be prepared with class alternatives in case they don’t get into their first choice. A student’s advisor can be very helpful in assisting with schedule adjustments, so students do not add time to their college career. And remember, with enough planning, WinTerm and summer classes might be a way to stay on track.

Stay Positive

The waiting on the waitlist can be frustrating, but we try to help every student, in all different circumstances, whenever we can during the registration process. As we said earlier, students should always sign up for the waitlist if they really want to take a particular class. Signing up helps the waitlisted student (and potentially their peers), and it helps us. Academic department chairs evaluate waitlists to determine if additional class sections could be offered. The more people who sign up for the waitlist, the more likely a course section could be added, which increases the odds a student will get a spot in the class. And remember, students change their class schedules frequently, so spots open often.

It's important for students to stay positive, plan ahead, and make the best choices they can with the information they have. A student’s advisor is ready to help!