Misunderstandings about Wait Lists

Wait lists are set up to help make the registration process more orderly.  Students often misunderstand this, perhaps on some level over-interpreting the wait list as a complete and fully automated tool for registering for the most desirable section. Critically, this is not the case.  (For official discussion of how the wait lists work, please refer to the Office of the Registrar.)

Most importantly, students should understand that being on a wait list does not mean that you will be enrolled in that section.  If there is insufficient movement from the roster, you will not be enrolled.  A student who is not enrolled into a section from the wait list is not entitled to special consideration afterwards.

Students are also often very surprised to learn, sometimes unfortunately through personal experience, that when a seat opens up in a section, the first person on the wait list is NOT always the one who gets that seat.  The system will try to enroll the first person on the list, but if that attempt is unsuccessful, for any reason, it will skip the first person and go on to the next person on the list.  (It is not rare for a student in position #4 on the wait list to get the newly open seat, after the system failed to enroll the students in positions #1-3!)

There are several things that might prevent the system from enrolling a student in the course, including (but not necessarily limited to):

  • The student might already be enrolled in another section of the same course.
  • The student might be enrolled in another course with a time conflict with the wait listed section.
  • The student might not yet have received permission to take that many credits.

The ACES system gives no indication to a student on a wait list that such an enrollment problem will prevent enrollment.  It is entirely the responsibility of the student to avoid these sorts of problems.  A student who is skipped over on a wait list for a reason such as these is not entitled to special consideration afterwards.

Because of the risk discussed above, it is not recommended that you sign up for a wait list for one section of a course if you are keeping your enrolled seat in another section of the same course, or a time-conflicting course. 

If you do this anyway, be sure to understand that you will not be enrolled from the wait list as long as this circumstance remains.  So it is essential to keep a very close eye on your position in the wait list.  If you are in position #1, clearly there is no point in having that position if you cannot be enrolled from it.  If you are in position #2, 3, or 4, note that you could still be preventing yourself from being enrolled -- because, as noted above, the students ahead of you on the wait list might also be enrolled in other sections, and the system might be passing you up after trying to enroll you, after having passed up the other students!

Consider these dangers very carefully before you sign up for a wait list for one section while keeping your enrolled seat in another section.