First-year University of Guelph students and their parents feel blindsided after being waitlisted for a spot in residence despite the school’s "residence priority guarantee."

"Had we known ahead of time, we likely would’ve picked another university to go to, because that’s part of the experience, being in residence," said Melanie Wawryk, a Waterloo mom.

Her son Magnus was set to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother by attending the University of Guelph this fall and was really looking forward to living on campus.

Then on Friday, Magnus got a notice he’d been waitlisted.

"He was very disappointed and really unsure of what to do," said Wawryk.

She and her family feel misled by the university, having heard that all first-year students would be guaranteed a place on campus.

"It’s really the lack of transparency for people to make an informed decision about what they were going to do," said Wawryk. "Now we honestly don’t know what to do."

The university’s housing policy was revised in 2020 due to the pandemic. In an email statement, a spokesperson for the school wrote: "U of G currently has a residence priority guarantee; secondary students entering their first year at U of G have priority for residence based on availability."

The school said while there's typically space for about 4,700 students in their campus residences, there were about 5,150 applications for student housing for Fall 2022.

The university has also accepted its largest ever incoming class with nearly 5,900 students for next September. That’s an increase of more than 51 per cent from last year.

"Students who live in the region (e.g.: Guelph, KW) were put on a waiting list," wrote the spokesperson. "While this was a difficult decision, we believe that students who currently have local accommodations are less likely to be affected by housing insecurity while we look at options. We also had to tell upper-year students that we cannot accommodate them in our campus residences this fall."

The university said it apologizes for any misunderstanding and is working to find accommodations for students, such as turning common areas into rooms and looking at creating an "annex" student residence at a hotel located near campus.

Wawryk said she'll look at other housing options for Magnus but they are also considering other schools, hoping it’s not too late for him to apply for a spot there.