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The Freshman Waitlist Process: FAQs

Before you call, read through this information. During this time of year, we receive hundreds of calls a day. You may find the answer to your question below. If not, you may want to contact your regional counselor or call our office.

The admissions office has extended you a waitlist offer. We are giving you the option to choose to be on the waitlist, or to decline our offer and have your application canceled. If you indicate your interest to our office by May 1, you will be included on the waitlist. If you do not indicate an interest, your application will be canceled. We will only give your application further consideration for admission if you accept a position on the waitlist.

The waitlist is not pre-ranked. As mentioned above, only those students who ask to remain on the waitlist will be considered further. If we decide to make additional offers of admissions, we start the review process over and look for the strongest candidates.

This year we want to enroll a freshman class of 4,750. Because students apply to multiple colleges, we must offer admission to more than 4,750 if we want to meet our enrollment goal. We hope to enroll at least 90% to 95% of our freshman class with our initial offers of admission. Because the students, and not JMU, have the final word in whether they enroll, we cannot know exactly how many deposits we will receive by the May 1 deadline. Once the deadline passes, we’ll know how many offers we can make from the waitlist. We will then begin to contact students who have indicated their interest. The majority of our waitlist offers are made in June. However, cancellations can take place throughout the summer and we continue to go to our waitlist to fill these cancellations, often as late as August 1.

This year over 31,600 students applied for admission to James Madison University. Less than half of our applicants were either denied admission or offered waitlist status. We consider a variety of factors when making admissions decisions. Most students admitted to JMU have:

  • Taken the most difficult classes at their high school (usually APs or IBs)
  • Taken 4 to 5 major areas in all 4 years of high school (major areas include: English, Math, Science, History/Social Science, and Foreign Language Studies)
  • Solid grades, B's and A's with very few C's and probably no D's
  • A wide range of personal qualities (extracurricular activities, work experience, life experience, special talents, and/or community service).

Many of our students on the waitlist also have these credentials. The JMU Admissions Committee takes a holistic approach when it reviews applications. This year the committee determined that 90% of the applicant pool would do well in college; unfortunately, the committee could only extend offers of admission to 71% of the applicants. Applicants offered a position on the waitlist have strong credentials that placed them among the best of those not offered admission.

The Admissions Committee will reevaluate all students on the waitlist after the May 1 deposit deadline and select those who will receive an offer of admission.

JMU will make our decisions based on your academic record and choose students who best fill the remaining spaces. 

You do not need to submit:

  • Additional recommendations
  • Updated transcripts (we already have your mid-semester grade report)
  • Additional essays
  • Personal interviews (we do not offer interviews)
  • Change your preference for major (we do not make admission decisions based on requested major)

Sometimes we hear this comment from students, but we cannot share applicant information. We can simply assure you that the Admissions Committee looks at several factors and carefully weighs each applicant. You cannot simply compare one or two criteria like grades and/or SAT and assume that one student is stronger than another.

Unfortunately, the process does not work in that manner. We must wait until the May 1 deadline to see how many other people, like your friend, decide to decline our offer. We then go to the waitlist and consider everyone on the list at that time.

We cannot make decisions before May 1. We will not have the information we need to make any waitlist offers until the beginning of June. We recommend that you carefully consider other offers you may have received. If you do not make any deposits by the deadline, you may end up with no college options for the fall. You may want to contact each individual college and ask about their refund policy for deposits. Most universities do not offer a refund on deposits. Do not make a deposit to JMU if you are on the waitlist. We cannot accept a deposit until you have been offered an official acceptance to the university.

You will be treated like the rest of our freshman class once you are admitted to JMU. Orientation dates for new freshmen run from late June to mid-July and class schedules are finalized at the end of July. You will have access to the same classes as all other freshmen. Housing is available for all freshman students. Housing assignments are not finalized until the end of July. Your eligibility for financial aid will not change. However, you may want to contact the financial aid office as soon as you are admitted to see how the timing of an award may be affected. Payment of fall bills will be due around the end of August.

You must weigh that choice carefully for yourself. We suggest you attend an accredited community college or four-year institution, and take a strong liberal arts program. Information about our transfer admission process can be found at

Please call us at (540) 568-5681, or e-mail us at

We do realize that this is a difficult process and being on the waitlist prolongs the anxiety.

We will do all we can to finalize our waitlist decisions in a timely manner.

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