Waitlisted? Now what?
Now that I'm on the waitlist, do I really just wait?
Although there is some variation among colleges in their instructions to students on the waitlist, most of them welcome a well-crafted letter that makes the case for admitting you if space becomes available in the freshman class. The letter should be respectful. If you begin with, "Dude, what were you thinking?" you will probably seal your fate as a freshman at another college.
What kinds of information should go in the letter?
First, important accomplishments and awards you have garnered since submitting your application. But what constitutes, "Important?" If it is meaningful to you, it is probably important enough to include. Your 4000-word extended essay on the mating habits of Australian wombats won, "Most Riveting Essay" at your high school. You are playing Lady Macbeth in the spring play. You were elected Treasurer of the Ponzi Scheme Society. In general, significant developments in your life are significant to admission directors.
Second, write persuasively about why the college is a great fit for you. After months of researching and applying to colleges, you should know some specifics about the college's academic program and extracurricular offerings. What are you especially looking forward to doing at this college? How do you think you will contribute to the community? Give the admission directors a vivid image of what your contributions will look like. "My independent study project on the history of unionizing in the U.S. has inspired me to form a group of students interested in discussing the contemporary role of unions in state-wide elections at You-Want-Me-But-You-Don't-Know-It-Yet University."
A respectful letter that expresses your knowledge of yourself and the college, and explains why the two go together like fries and ketchup, is your best bet for making if off the waitlist and into the much-too-cramped dorm room of your dreams.