How to Play the Law School Waiting Game

If you've been wait-listed at your top choice law school, find out what steps you can take now.

By + More

In this installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a monthly feature in Law Admissions Lowdown that provides expert admissions advice to readers who write in with their questions, I will focus on how to optimize your chances of admission off the law school wait list near the end of the cycle.

Dear Shawn: I will be heading to law school this fall. I have been accepted at a good school in D.C., and have been wait-listed at a top southern school. The southern school is my No. 1 choice; I interviewed in the fall, I have sent two letters of continued interest, coordinated with the admissions office for a "campus visit" (during which I re-interviewed—this time with the waitlist coordinator), and have sent E-mails reconfirming my interest every two to three weeks.

However, the school has been a bit vague with their wait list updates. I only received one E-mail regarding the list, in early summer. I understand these lists are not static, and are constantly in flux with applicants dropping off daily, but do schools shrink their list[s] come late July? Thank you for any insight you can provide. -Waitlist Blues

Dear Waitlist Blues: So far, you have been doing everything right. However, I would caution against contacting the school too often. An E-mail every two weeks may start crossing the line from helpful to inconvenient. 

You should definitely E-mail if you have positive news to share, such as a promotion, a new extracurricular leadership position, or a final transcript with grades the schools have not yet seen, but do not send too many E-mails, as this has the potential to backfire. 

You will most likely hear back from the law school soon, but you may have to wait until late August. Many students do drop off wait lists by this point in the admissions cycle. Thus, if a last-minute opening occurs (which is quite possible if someone who currently plans to matriculate to the top southern school is admitted elsewhere off a wait list), you will likely be a very competitive candidate to fill this space given the interest you have shown. 

Good luck gaining admission to your top choice law school! -Shawn 

[Debunk two law school wait list myths.] 

Dear Shawn: I'm wait-listed at several schools, all of which I'd attend over the schools at which I've been accepted. I've written letters of continued interest to each school, and visited several. Is there anything more I can/should do to get off one of these wait lists?  

Should I call or E-mail them inquiring about the wait list? Should I E-mail non-attending wait-listers I think I may have found online and ask them to formally withdraw? Should I ask for an interview with the school's dean? Thanks in advance for your advice. -Law School Limbo 

Dear Law School Limbo: Unfortunately, the toughest part about being on a wait list is the waiting itself. Depending on when you sent your letters of continued interest, you may want to send an E-mail confirming that you are still very interested in each school. Also, let your top choice school know that it is your first choice, and you are absolutely committed to attending if admitted. In your E-mails to the schools, you could also ask to meet with a member of the admissions staff to reinforce your interest. 

[Get admissions tips from law school deans.]

I do not recommend asking people, who you do not know and who may currently be on the wait list, to withdraw. While it can be frustrating to know that there may be people holding wait list spots who do not plan on attending (though they may just have not updated an online posting), the schools already have processes in place to confirm their interest.

If a space opens up on the wait list, the school will only give other wait list applicants a few days to decide. If the wait-listed applicant does not accept, the school will move onto the next person on the list—who could be you! 

Keep in mind that any correspondence you have with the law schools should be carefully worded. Personalize your follow-up notes to each school, and express your gratitude for being considered. As frustrated as you may be during this time, you never want to give the impression that you might be annoyed in your communication with the schools. Best of luck! -Shawn