Waitlists, Rolling Waitlists and What It All Means

Because there are so many schools, programs and options for schooling in Chicago, parents who apply to multiple programs may receive more than one offer. Because a student can only attend one school at a time, there actually can be a lot of movement in program availability throughout the summer and into the school year. Both public (CPS) and private (parochial and independent) schools fill those changing seats by utilizing waitlists before school starts, and sometimes into the new school year.

For private schools, an unfilled seat is a missed tuition and similarly, each student at a public school comes with a per pupil funding amount (until the 20th day of school). Families can add or remove a student from a waitlist if desired during the Rolling Admission cycle.

Preschool (PK3 or PK4): Chicago Early Learning students can get up to one offer out of 5 ranked choices and will be waitlisted for any higher ranked schools they did not qualify for.

Elementary (K-8th grade): CPS applicants can get multiple offers at various Choice (non test-based, non-selective) programs in addition to up to one SEES (test-based, selective enrollment) offer, in addition to a guaranteed neighborhood K-8th grade seat.

For CPS 9th graders (high school), students can get up to one offer each for SEHS and Choice programs as well as a guaranteed neighborhood 9th-12th grade seat.

Private school applicants can get offers for multiple schools at once, too, but a student can only attend one school at a time. Therefore, public and private waitlist movement happens throughout late Spring into Summer and even Fall.

All CPS preschool, elementary, and 9th grade high school programs are using a rolling waitlist system as of late May 2023.

CPS’s new rolling waitlist is meant to simplify what was once a separate transfer process for K-9th grade as well as a separate late application. All CPS applicants can view their GoCPS portal to see which remaining programs have immediate seats to accept (green), which have an open waitlist to join (yellow), and which are full or have a low likelihood of an offer (red). Your student will only be shown programs they are eligible to receive an offer for based on whether they participated in any required admissions screenings and if they met the threshold.

Original waitlists are those programs that you applied to in the Initial Application Process (was open from 9/21/22-12/8/22) and if an offer was not received, students either were automatically waitlisted for any programs that were listed above their offer (for ranked applications such as preschool, selective enrollment or high school) or they can be on multiple, independent waitlists for K-8th grade Choice programs. More info HERE.

Rolling waitlists (updated nightly) will run through the summer into the 20th day of the new school year for Selective Enrollment (SE) programs, through January 2024 for K-9th grade Choice programs, and until Spring 2024 for Preschool programs. You can only be on a Selective Enrollment waitlist if you have not accepted any SE offer, and you can remain on the waitlists for up to 20 Choice K-9th grade programs. Applicants can choose to remove schools from a waitlist if they are no longer interested or can add themselves to a waitlist if desired. Waitlists will re-sort every evening and those based on a point system can cause a student’s waitlist position to go up or down depending on the scores of new waitlist students. Slidedeck about Offer/Waitlists HERE and more info on rolling waitlists HERE.

Because CPS is funded on a per pupil spending model and their budgeting is set by the 20th day of school, most waitlist movement is seen at the end of the summer, just before school starts. Neighborhood & magnet cluster schools typically refrain from calling waitlist families until close to the start of school (Aug 21) and that can affect all other waitlists as well. Families should be ready to accept or decline a spot within 2 business days from receiving a call.

Families may need to stay patient, but much movement happens toward the end of the summer as public & private waitlists become more active at that time. Good luck to all families and don’t be surprised if your child is offered a spot at the start of the school year.