Beat 2 Law School Wait List Myths

Know what to do to increase your chances of getting accepted.

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By the middle of February, some of you who applied to law school this year will have heard—or will soon hear—that you've been wait-listed at your top choice. While a wait list letter is certainly disappointing, remember that it is also most definitely not a rejection.

Law schools often admit students from the wait list throughout the spring and summer. In fact, through my work at Stratus Prep, I once had two clients admitted off the Harvard Law School wait list on the same day! Given the slight dip in law school applications this cycle, your chances of being admitted off the wait list will likely be even better this year.

[Get admissions advice from law school deans.]

To increase your chances of being accepted from a law school wait list, let's first review a couple of common misconceptions:

Myth 1: Wait lists are static. In reality, wait lists are very dynamic, with law school admissions offices constantly reevaluating applicants for admission. The admissions committee's goal is not to simply admit the applicants with the best "stats," but to build a diverse class.

So, if you are interested in public interest law, for example, and a previously admitted student that also has a public interest focus turns the school down, you may be admitted ahead of others with higher scores.

Myth 2: You should contact the school immediately after being wait-listed. Do not panic when you find out that you have been placed on a law school's wait list. If you move too quickly, you could give the impression that you are desperate and hasty.

Wait a couple weeks before sending a letter of continuing interest. This also gives you more time to fully evaluate your situation—looking at where you have been admitted, where you are wait-listed, where you have been rejected, and where you have not yet heard from, so you can prioritize your efforts.

[Find out how to choose a law school.]

When you are ready to reach out to the school, do so via E-mail, and make a law school campus visit. Stay in regular contact with the school without overpowering them; daily or even weekly contact is too much. (There is a fine line between letting a school know you are interested and inundating them; be sure not to cross this line.)

In some cases, schools may follow up with you to ensure you are still interested. If you are, of course, you should confirm this. If you are not, however, earn some good karma by telling the law school you would like to be removed from the wait list. Your fellow applicants and the admissions department may really appreciate it.

How Long Should You Wait?

Deciding how long you are willing to wait is one of the most difficult parts of being wait-listed. You could be admitted off the wait list anytime between April and August. Some applicants have the flexibility to stay on the wait list until the last possible moment, and sometimes it pays off.

We had a client who was sitting in orientation at a law school in Washington, D.C. in August when he saw an E-mail on his phone informing him that he was accepted to the Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law, his top choice. He walked out of orientation, broke his lease in D.C., and moved back to New York in one day.

However, many applicants require more stability. To preserve your sanity, I recommend you choose a date by which you will firmly commit to a law school—and stick to it.

As you decide where to attend law school this fall, money may also become an important factor. If you are fortunate enough to be admitted off a wait list, it is highly unlikely that you will receive merit-based financial aid from that law school. So if merit-based aid is a substantial consideration for you, take that into account as you plan your wait list strategy.

If you are unsure how to manage your wait list strategy, consider seeking expert advice.

[Get tips on how to pay for law school.]

How do you plan on handling the waiting game? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.

Check back next Monday for the first edition of my new admissions advice segment. (For more information and to send in your profile for consideration for future columns, read the full details at the top of my January 16th column.)