1. Don’t take it personally.
The admissions game is partially a game of chance, not skill – maybe too many people from your home state applied this year, or your application was read after there were already too many students accepted into your intended major. There is also the slim chance that the university received your supplemental materials (transcript, counselor recommendation) too late in the process.
2. Make other plans
Let’s be honest – the chances of getting off of the waitlist are extremely slim. Most schools only take two or three people per class off of the waitlist. Do not expect – or even spend much time hoping – to be admitted. Put down a deposit at another school and try to remember that you can get a good education anywhere; there are bright, talented people at every school; and ultimately, your future success is up to you, not your diploma.
3. Keep up the good work.
Don’t let your grades or extracurriculars slide. Spring senioritis is not an option for those on the waitlist. If you want a chance at admission, one of the first ways to strike yourself from the list is to have your academics and activities slip.
4. Up your game.
Think of a waitlist decision as that college’s way of saying, “Nice try. Let’s see what else you got.” Your waitlist letter is your chance to improve on your initial application. The most common ways we’ve seen to get off the waitlist are to win a scholarship or award.
5. Get creative.
To make your waitlist letter stand out, don’t write one. Rather, find an innovative and odd way to get their attention. You have nothing to lose, so go for the Hail Mary. Admissions officers claim they’ve seen it all, so you need to really innovate to make an impression. Successful attempts we’ve seen include a future film major making a short, dramatic film about the school and a future computer scientist code and 3D print a rendering of the college’s campus to show off his technical prowess.
6. Be prepared for anything.
Since you never know what will happen in your life or what could happen, don’t think you are set to one life path. Don’t feel defeated. Some schools take people off of the waitlist up until the week before move-in. Moreover, you can transfer to your dream school in two years, go there for grad school, or fall in love with the school where you end up.