By Mia Lyndon

Waiting lists can be a tricky business. They’re the middle man between rejection and ultimate success- often leaving us without quite knowing where we stand. As dancers and performers, many of us like to know what’s going on- we like to understand and plan ahead. But waiting lists can leave us without this ideal, landing us in an uncertain guessing game that can last for months.

Luckily, auditions often follow certain patterns, and so do their waiting lists. The more we understand about waiting lists, the less anxious we’ll feel when we find our names scribbled onto one.

What does it mean if I’m told I’ve been placed onto a waiting list, after an audition?

This tells you that you were good enough for whatever you auditioned for. It shows you that the audition panel spoke well about you and found lots of things they liked. You stood out at the audition and grabbed their attention for the right reasons.

However, for whatever reason, they didn’t have enough places for you. This may be due to large volumes of auditionees, meaning that had far more applicants than available places. It could also be down to you not being entirely suitable for a place on this occasion. This never means that you aren’t ‘talented’ or ‘worthy’- perhaps you just need an extra year, or you aren’t quite applying for the right course/role.

What are the chances of gaining a place, if I’ve been put onto a waiting lists?

The truth is, you’ll never really fully know. This all depends on how many spaces they have available, the rate at which people accept their places and how many other people are on the waiting list.

For some very popular auditions (such as auditions for stage schools and dance companies) they will have very few places compared to how many people audition. As the places for these types of auditions are so sought-after, usually their waiting lists will be fairly long, to ensure that all places are filled- even if people drop out. You may find yourself on a waiting list that is even bigger than the course itself.

Other auditions may have much smaller waiting lists- sometimes they may have only a few names of their list, in case successful applicants choose not to take up their offers.

The best way to work this out is to think about how many people have auditioned. If you’ve attended an audition alongside hundreds or even thousands of applicants, chances are, the waiting list is fairly long. But also have a think about how many people usually accept their offers- the higher this acceptance rate is, the shorter the waiting list will be, as the audition panel won’t need the assurance of having a waiting list to fill up unwanted places.

What’s the difference between a ‘reserve list’, ‘shortlist’ and a ‘waiting list’?

This can sometimes be unclear, but usually there is a slight difference between a ‘reserve list’, ‘shortlist’ and a ‘waiting list’.

A ‘reserve list‘ can mean that you are almost like an ‘understudy’ for a place. This may mean that the audition panel have offered a place to someone else, but if they don’t take it, you may be given that place. However, there can be multiple levels to any ‘shortlist’, meaning that any rejected place could be offered to more than one person before it is offered to you.

A ‘shortlist‘ can often mean something entirely different. This can sometimes mean that the panel have identified you as being suitable for a place, but are waiting to see other applicants first. Often, you may find yourself on this waiting list if you have applied early in the audition season, with more auditions happening later that year. This allows an audition panel to keep you in consideration, whilst they check out other auditionees in the meantime.

A ‘waiting list‘ is very similar (if not sometimes the same) as a ‘reserve list’. Essentially, a ‘waiting list’ means that, although you have been identified as suitable for a place, the audition panel don’t have a place for you right now, but if a space becomes available, you will be considered.

Take note of the fact that audition panels often use all kinds of different words to explain the same thing, so listen out for other clues that you may hear from any emails and conversations you have.

How long might it take to hear back a final response if I’m on a waiting list?

This all depends on when you audition and how long the audition season is. Usually, when you’re on a waiting list, you could hear a possible response anytime between the day after you audition, to the day that the course/show commences.

To get an idea of when this may be, go onto the audition’s website and find out when the very last auditions are and when the course/show begins. At the very latest, you will hear by then.

However, for some courses/shows, they may still give out places after it has commenced- e.g. if a dancer drops out due to injury.

If you’re on a waiting list for a university course, you should hear back before the UCAS and student finance deadline. However, unfortunately this isn’t always the case- schools/universities have been known to offer out places during the late summer holidays.

What should I do if I’m on a waiting list?

If you find yourself on a waiting list, there are two things you must do: Look for other alternatives and don’t lose confidence.

Especially if what you’ve auditioned for is an educational course (e.g. universitiy/college/conservatoire) that could alter your future, you must look for back-up plans. Holding out hope that a space becomes available is simply not enough, sometimes it’s best to assume that you have been unsuccessful and therefore have to look for alternative options. That way, its a win-win situation: if you do get a place, that’s wonderful, but if you don’t, you have still got something just as good to fall back on.

The final thing is never lose hope, never assume that a waiting list spot is a failure. Because it’s not.

Find pride in the fact that you made it so far as to get on a waiting list- there would have been so many other auditionees that got a direct ‘no’ on the very same day. A waiting list spot proves that you are talented, you were spotted and you were considered good enough for the course- perhaps this year just wasn’t quite your year.

Try to ask for feedback, then act on it, before moving on. There will be so many other opportunities coming your way- never hold your breath for something that just isn’t right for you.


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About the Author


Mia is the founder and director of Audition Quest, as well as a freelance writer. Having written commissions for dance institutes, various dance magazines, professional dancers, casting directors and industry leaders, she has a large amount of knowledge and experience within the written dance scene.

She is also a guest blogger for a variety of online blogs and publications.

For inquiries, commissions and queries, please contact

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sam says:

    Thank You for a comprehensive and inspirational article . Going through the college audition scenario and its long winded and a veritable rollercoaster.
    It helps to hear a voice of sensibility and encouragement.
    So Thank You

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