Well, congratulations! It might feel like another rejection, but what the wait list means is that you're one of the applicants that the university finds qualified to be part of the community - just that there wasn't enough space for everyone. Due to the competitiveness of many colleges and universities, it means that there were several students just as qualified as you, and perhaps there was something else that someone else had that the admissions officers found would contribute to the mix of this particular class. Typically the difference between accepted students and those that are wait listed are arbitrary and minor. Pat yourself on the back for this accomplishment.
What to do next?
If you'd like to be on the wait list, you must actively notify the university. Follow the instructions included in the notice/letter and be sure to respond. There are several things to do and not do to better your chances of getting off the wait list. However, many competitive universities only accept small percentages of students off their wait lists, so be sure to put down a deposit at a school in which you'd be happy to go to otherwise. Most schools accept students off the wait list after the May 1 decisions requirements of those that were accepted before pulling from the wait list.
Things to keep in mind:
- Do follow instructions in submitting additional information to the application if the school allows. This might be a letter of continued interest, sometimes an extra letter of recommendation, and updated resume/activities; but be sure it's within the school's allowed submission of information. If you do have the intention to enroll if admitted, feel free to state that in your wait list letter.
- Do not flood the school with recommendations, lengthy letters, and samples of your school work; this could backfire! However, most schools do allow for the submission of a letter to explain your interest and fit in the school.
- Do keep the grades up and activities going.
- Do some research on what your chances might be in getting off the wait list; it is ok to contact the admissions office to get a sense of how many students are typically pulled each year (and there are often stats on many schools on the internet somewhere!).
- Do get excited about the schools you were accepted into! While in this holding pattern with your wait listed schools, you still need to, in parallel, make decisions and move forward with one of the schools that you were accepted into.
Best of luck on school decisions!