Law School Waitlist

Law School Waitlist: What Do I Do Now?

If you received a decision back from a school but you’re not admitted or denied, you may feel like you’re stuck in limbo. You were waitlisted. Now what? Here’s an overview of what it means to be on a law school waitlist, what you can expect moving forward, and what you can do to boost your chances of admission.

Law School Waitlist: What Do I Do Now?

What does it mean to be on a waitlist?

A waitlist decision is a school’s acknowledgment of the strength of your application without extending you an offer of admission. It’s not a guarantee of admission but it’s also not a denial.  The school is essentially waiting to see how the rest of the application pool shakes out before making a final decision on your application.

Remember that the admissions process consists of a review of your own application credentials as well as a comparison of you against others in the application pool. Early in the admissions cycle, it’s hard to predict what the upcoming application cycle will look like. Admissions offices may just want more time to see how you stack up against other candidates. A waitlist decision allows them to do that. Don’t rule your changes of admission out yet!

When can I expect to be moved off the law school waitlist?

You may hear back from law schools with a final decision as early as the spring or as late as orientation week. Sometimes it happens on the first day of law school! By the spring, most applicants have already applied. Schools then have a better understanding of what an incoming class will look like. They may also have a better idea how you may fit into that based on your own background and credentials. This is especially true after the first deposit deadlines pass. That is when all of the admitted students either reserve their seat in the class or decide to go elsewhere.

At this point, if admitted students don’t put down a deposit, they are giving up their seat in the class. The school can then re-allocate the seat to another student. (It’s not a one-to-one ratio but if enough admitted students choose not to put down a seat deposit, a school may go immediately to their waitlist.) Also keep in mind that there’s a trickle-down effect, where top law schools may pull applicants off their waitlist which then frees up space in a different school’s class for others, and so on. 

What can I do to help boost my chances of being admitted?

The best ways to improve your chances to get off a law school waitlist are to reiterate your interest in the school throughout the cycle and improve some aspect of your application (which usually means re-taking the LSAT for most students).

If you really want to go to a particular school, stay in contact with the admissions staff. Also, remember to send in a statement of continued interest periodically. You can be transparent with the office. Let them know that if you were admitted, you would attend (obviously only say this if true). In your statement of continued interest to schools, you should also be sure to keep them abreast of any changes in your resume since you applied.  This may include a change of jobs or a promotion, additional volunteer work, accolades received or anything that you think the admissions office should know to help them make a more informed decision.

You can also improve some aspect of your application to boost your chances of admission. If you’re still in school, send in your transcripts at the end of the semester for additional consideration. If your grades are mostly finalized or your new transcripts don’t give you the boost you were looking for, then the “easiest” and most significant way to give your application a boost is to re-take the LSAT if you’re below a school’s median. Re-taking the LSAT may not be very beneficial for you if you’re above their median LSAT or 75 percentiles. For better or worse, assuming your grades are set, the LSAT remains a core component of your application that you still have control over. Achieving a higher score on the LSAT may help you go from waitlist to admission in a matter of weeks.

Should I still apply or commit to other schools?

YES! A law school waitlist decision is not a guarantee of admission. If you want to go to law school in the upcoming year, then proceed forward with other admissions offers by putting down a seat deposit and reserving housing if necessary. Hope for the best but plan for the worst! Keep in mind that transferring into your dream school is always an option!

Remember: patience is a virtue!

More than anything, keep in mind that you need to be patient. This process takes time and it can take months (or the better part of a year) before receiving a final decision. Being waitlisted may feel like you’re stuck in limbo for eternity but find things to distract yourself. Enjoy your senior year of college. Find a part-time job. Research other schools that you may have a better shot of gaining admission to, and visit them. Others schools may surprise you with all they have to offer. If nothing else, remember that with a great 1L GPA, transferring is a possibility.

Good luck!

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