Let them know you’re still interested
Shoot off a quick email to the program—thank them, tell them you’re honored and excited to be in consideration, etc, etc. It’s always a good idea to let them know you’re interested in staying on the list.
Ask them how the waitlist works
More specifically, ask if they can give you more detail about where you are on the list. Some programs will explicitly say in the waitlist letter that they can’t give you any more information beyond what they’ve already provided. In this case, there’s little point in asking. But it might still be appropriate to ask them how long it usually takes for waitlisters to hear back. This is especially helpful if you have other programs banging down your door and you need to give them a timeline.
Ask to speak with current students
If you get in off the waitlist there’s a possibility you’ll have to make a last-minute decision. Getting answers from current students early on will allow you to weigh your potential decision(s) much sooner than the April 15th deadline.
If you’re high on a waitlist OR you’re waitlisted at your top program OR the program is close to where you live, you might also considering asking if you can visit. I know a few applicants last year who visited programs while they were still on the waitlist. It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is “no.” Well, maybe the worst thing they can say is “yes, but we can’t reimburse you for it.”
Sit, and wait
Things you can do while waiting: write, revise, binge-watch a TV series on Netflix, hang out with friends, read a novel or a book of poetry you’ve been meaning to read for years, play mindless video games, exercise, cook your favorite meal. The possibilities are endless.
Check back in with the program
This may or may not be applicable to you. Maybe you talked with students/faculty and you decided you’re not excited about the program—tell them you’re no longer interested. Or maybe you discovered you LOVE the program and you would say yes right away if they accepted you—tell them this! Likewise, some programs might check back in with you periodically to let you know where you stand on the list, or to relay information about the program, funding, etc.
Don’t assume anything
Never assume you’ll get into a program off of the waitlist. And never assume you’ll be rejected. They’re complicated for everyone involved; it really does you no good to try and predict the future because no one (not even the faculty and admins) knows what’s going to happen. Circumstances can change at a moment’s notice. Instead, focus on learning as much about the program as possible so you can make an informed decision if need be.
Most importantly, congratulate yourself on being waitlisted. It’s a huge accomplishment in and of itself!