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What Does It Mean If I’m On The Wait List?

Posted by Emily Cummings on 1/4/18 12:35 PM

ILP adventure

So. You’re all set to send in your application to go volunteering with ILP and even have your country picked out … then find out you’re on the wait list. What does that even mean?


Wait list sounds like a scary word, but it’s really not. Basically, there are a certain number of volunteers that we can send to each location each semester, so when we have more applicants than there are spots we start using a waitlist system to help as many people get a spot as possible.


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So if we have lots of people who apply to be volunteering in Ukraine, we’ll need to start a wait list. It’s not a bad thing!  We promise it's not a bad thing if you find out you're on the waitlist — hopefully we can clear up a few questions:

  • Why is there a wait list to volunteer?
  • Will I get to go if I'm on a wait list? 
  • What are my options?
  • How can I avoid the wait list? 

Why is there a wait list to volunteer?

There isn't always one, but sometimes there is. In a nutshell, the Local Coordinator who is running the ILP program abroad will tell ILP how many volunteers they need. For example, the coordinator in Kiev, Ukraine will decide that they need say 25 volunteer teachers based on how many students have signed up, how many they can accommodate with their housing setup, etc. Then they come to ILP and say, "Okay, we can take 25 volunteers this Spring!"

If we have more than 25 people who are accepted for Spring and are saying that they really want to go to Kiev, then we start a wait list. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are that a spot will be available and we can send you an official email that says, "Woohoo, you're in the Kiev group!" After those 25 people, Kiev is technically "full" for that semester so we let applicants know that they are placed on a wait list.

But don't worry; just because Kiev is "full" that doesn't mean you are out of the running. We want to provide an opportunity for everyone who wants to serve! Keep reading for tips on how to get assigned to the best country for you.

Will I still get to go if I'm on wait list? 

Say you decide you want to apply for a semester in Thailand. Great. But once you’re accepted, your ILP representative lets you know that there is a wait list for Thailand … should you stop dreaming up a weekend itinerary for Bangkok? Nope!

We have a wait list because it's very common for volunteers to change their mind, so we know that there's still a chance to get you in. We will begin accepting applications about a year and a half before that semester starts and sometimes countries "fill up" pretty quickly after that (volunteering abroad is popular!).

But there's good news because think about it ... do you know what you're going to be doing a year and a half from now? Sometimes it's hard to know and plans do change. There's so many unknown things that come up (from engagements, to sicknesses, to financial trouble to working around school requirements) and we often have people who decide they can't volunteer anymore, for a number of reasons.

When that happens we can move someone up from the wait list to be officially assigned to that country. 

ILP China

What are my options? 

If you are told there is a wait list, you have options. 

1. You can be put on the wait list for your first choice country and we’ll let you know when/if a spot opens up. 

2. You can also choose to go to another country completely (maybe you’ve always wanted to be one of the volunteers living in Moscow …  now’s your chance!).

3. Or, you can do both! Lots of volunteers choose to be assigned to another country they're interested in and also be put on a wait list for their first choice country so that they know they definitely have a spot that semester, no matter where they go. This is usually the most popular option for volunteers. When this happens, you can get ready to go to the country you're assigned to, but then if a spot opens up in the country you were on the waitlist for we'll give you a call and see if you want to switch to that country or if you want to stay in the country you're currently assigned to.

4. You can also choose to switch to another semester where we do have available spots so that you don't have to roll the dice with the wait list.

orphanage volunteer

Something to keep in mind: 

As a heads up, we have volunteers ALL THE TIME who apply to one country, find out that it’s full and are put on the wait list. But while they wait, they opt to be assigned to an open country. Then, when a spot opens up in their 1st choice country … they don’t switch back!

They’ve done all the research and stalked #ilpadventure and decided that they’ll be happy in the country they already have a spot in. So, just keep that in mind. If Ukraine is full, you might actually fall in love with the idea of volunteering in Russia while you wait. So, keep an open mind!

If you ask just about any volunteer which country is the best one to go to, they'll say the one that they went to. You know why? Because you fall in love with the country, the people the serve, and your group no matter where you go! Be flexible, be open, and communicate with your ILP representative to work your way through the application process stress free so that we can help you get the volunteer experience you want.

ILP DR

How can I avoid the wait list? 

We recommend applying early! You can apply up to three semesters in advance (or 1.5 years). It's really hard to predict how quick a country will "fill up", so we recommend applying as soon as you can! 

You can also change semesters. If you know you only want to go to the Dominican Republic and don't want to wait to see if you can get a spot, you can opt to go the next semester.

When you apply you'll be assigned a representative and they can work with you to help you know all of your options at that time and help you to get assigned to a country where you'll have an amazing experience. 

ILP DR

Do you have more questions about how it all works?

Make sense? If you’ve got a few more questions about the whole “volunteering with International Language Programs” thing, we’re here to help with that too. ILP sends college-aged volunteers all around the world to teach English and make a difference. And the wait lists help us make that happen for a lot more volunteers each semester — which is great news for you.

Get in touch, right here:

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Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering

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We are ILP, a Utah based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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