The following is an excerpt from the Waitlists chapter of our Best Book.
Video editing was a personal interest, but I realized that I could leverage it into something that would help me on an application. I would enter art contests where I would render 3D scenes. At the time the technology was fairly new. It was a personal interest that I coincidentally later realized was unique and helpful in finding opportunities in research.
I applied to a lot of schools. I applied to maybe 20 schools overall, not just to three. I got accepted to MIT, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell out of the Ivy League schools. I was actually put on a waiting list for MIT. Even after I was put on the wait list I was getting awards, so I sent a letter with a tape recorded concert of me playing the violin in a contest, I sent in the Westinghouse semifinalist award I had won, and I sent a letter expressing how much I wanted to got to MIT, along with another couple of recommendations. That made a big difference.
I did what I could to stand out on the waiting list, because that list is essentially a queue. You have a place, so whatever you can do to get higher up on that queue increases your chances of getting admitted.
I sent all of that material at once. I figured if I sent it in small chunks it would get filed away and be lost, or that it wouldn’t seem impressive. I was lucky enough to have those things stocked up, and I put them in an envelope and sent them in all at once. It was one shot. I don’t think I waited very long between sending that in and getting in. I sent it in within two weeks of having found out I was on the wait list. These extra material helped to give me that extra push that I needed to get off the waitlist.