Being placed onto a law school waitlist may seem like a sad end to your application cycle, but it doesn't have to be. Many students have successfully moved themselves off the waitlist and secured an offer of admission later on in their admission cycle. To get the best chance at this, however, you need to carefully navigate the world of law school waitlists to the best of your ability.
In this article, we will be discussing how exactly the law school waitlist works. We'll also help you understand what you can do to improve your chances of being accepted off the waitlist and give some pointers about when you may be able to expect some waitlist movement during your application cycle.
How Does the Law School Waitlist Work?
Many students who are placed onto a law school waitlist see it as a complete rejection of their application and may give up hope on admissions. However, you should not see a waitlist as a rejection of your application, but as a chance to continue to impress the admissions committee; being placed on a waitlist does come with hope, though it may not feel like that at the time.
Admissions committees only place students on waitlists that they would be happy to admit into the school at some point if the need arises. There is no general rule about which students get accepted and which get added to waitlists, as this process largely depends on the school. Nor is there an algorithm that you can crack in order to understand exactly how to get off of a waitlist.
That being said, you may be able to turn your position on the waitlist into an offer of admission if you effectively navigate the school's requirements and acceptance process. This is something that can be confusing at first and doesn't necessarily guarantee your admission, but it can greatly boost your overall chances of being selected off the waitlist, and that's what you want to work toward with a waitlist.
And if you want to know exactly when you might hear back about your waitlisted position, skip down to our in-depth section below.
What You Can Do After Being Waitlisted
As soon as you are waitlisted, there are some steps you can take that can help improve your overall chances of admission and your memorability with the admissions committee.
When you receive notification that you have been placed on the school's waitlist, it is important to accept the spot enthusiastically, and as soon as possible. You don't want to leave the school waiting a long time for a response, because they will assume you aren't interested.
And while you should be enthusiastic and genuine in your response, you don't want to immediately go overboard and bombard the admissions committee with questions about how to get off the waitlist or when you can expect to get a final decision—there is a good chance that most of your questions will be answered in the notification, so be sure to carefully read all instructions and then answer with a professional, positive “yes” or respectfully decline the offer, as you see fit.
The Letter of Continued Interest
Sending in a letter of continued interest is one of the most important things you can do once you are placed on a waitlist. This letter is written to inform the law school that you remain interested in their program and reassure them that if offered a spot off the waitlist, you would certainly accept it.
Your letter should be school-specific and can reference other essays you have written as part of your application, such as a personal statement or an essay detailing why that specific school is your top choice. Make sure to keep the letter to the point and remain positive throughout. This doesn't mean going overboard with praises for the law school, but it does mean clearly reaffirming what you like about this specific school and why you think you would be a good fit for the program.
It is a good idea to send your letter of continued interest a few days after the deposit deadlines of your waitlist schools, as this will put you at the forefront of the admissions committee's minds as they start evaluating their waitlist.
If you send a letter after the first deposit deadline, you should refrain from sending another until it has been at least another month or two; sending too many letters of continued interest can be off-putting to the admissions committee, so make sure you don't go overboard with this.
For more information on writing your letter of continued interest, check out this article.
Visit the Law School
Another important step in demonstrating your interest in a law school is to visit the campus of whichever school you have been waitlisted at. This is a good chance to talk to an admissions officer, students around campus, and other prospective 1L (first year law school) students, giving you a good feel for the school's culture. If you are wondering what to ask an admissions officer when you visit, you can check out this article for some good ideas.
Ideally, you should visit the law school's campus as soon as possible after being waitlisted, but it is acceptable to visit at any time while you are on the waitlist.
After your visit, it is a good idea to reach back out to the admissions office with a thank you email and a few sentences reaffirming your interest in the school. This step is especially important if you met with an admissions officer during your visit, as you want to make a good impression.
Keep the Admissions Office Updated
While you stay on the waitlist, you may experience job promotions, updated transcripts with higher grades, win an award, or accept a new job. All of these things may boost your chances of admission, and you should take time to email the admissions office with any updates like these.
What you shouldn't do, however, is email the admissions office every day with a play-by-play of your career or undergraduate grades. Keep your updates short, professional, and respectful, and consider saving up an email until you have two or three significant accomplishments that you can tell the admissions office about all at once.
Consider Retaking the LSAT
If you are waitlisted fairly early in your admissions cycle (sometime before summer), you may have the opportunity to retake the LSAT. A retake and an improved score may increase your chances of admission, especially if the score you were waitlisted with is at or below your desired school's median.
You should only retake the LSAT if you are confident that you can bring your score up a significant amount (typically, more than 3 points) and have enough time to study, take the test, and receive your score back before enrollment in the fall.
This means that if you were waitlisted in March, you have time to take the early summer LSAT administration and update the admissions office with your score. If you were waitlisted in June, however, you may not have time to retake before final waitlist decisions are made.
If you want to read more about retaking the LSAT, check out this article here.
Submit Additional Required Essays
Certain law schools may require that you submit additional essays when you are waitlisted. It is important to read all of the instructions and guidelines when you receive your notification of being waitlisted, as this will tell you if there are any additional requirements you need to know.
These essays will be very school-specific and are likely to depend on research that you conduct about the school individually. Most schools will require an essay that answers the question “Why this school?” while others may ask for a variation of the letter of continued interest.
Don't Obsess Over the Waitlist
It can be hard at first to stop thinking about the fact that you are on a law school waitlist and to hold yourself back from emailing the admissions office every day. However, you should try your hardest to not obsess over being on a waitlist, as this, combined with constantly contacting the admissions office, will likely have a negative effect on your admissions chances.
Many law school applicants are placed on a waitlist, so take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You should be working through the steps above to increase your chances of admission and stay in communication with the admissions office approximately once a month while you are still on the waitlist.
Don't Cease All Communications
If you are offered a spot on the waitlist or an offer of admission after you have been on the waitlist for a while, it is important to give a prompt response, no matter what your answer is. It is perfectly okay if your plans have changed and you don't want to attend the school or accept a spot on the waitlist, but you need to make this clear to the admissions office.
To not do so can be frustrating for the admissions committee that works very hard to ensure all students are given equal opportunity to take their place on the waitlist or in the incoming law school class, and may even slow down the waitlist process for others.
When Can You Expect to Hear Back from a Waitlist?
When you can expect to hear back from a waitlist is a common question among many law school hopefuls, but it is one that unfortunately doesn't have a concrete answer. Law schools process their admissions at different speeds, and more often than not, waitlist movement will only occur once a higher-ranking school starts selecting students off of their waitlist, creating opportunities throughout each tier of schools as the movement works its way down.
It is also common to experience waitlist movement around deposit deadlines, as this is when accepted students lock in their seats. The admissions committee will typically review their incoming class once these deadlines have passed and turn to the waitlist to select students that meet their needs for a proportionate and diverse 1L class. This may mean that you are selected for a higher than normal LSAT score, despite your GPA being low, or vice versa; there are many reasons that the admissions committee may select you over someone else, so it can be a hard thing to predict.
However, if you have done your due diligence from the moment you were added to the law school's waitlist and made sure to keep in contact with the admissions office, submitted letters of continued interest, and demonstrated your dedication to the school, you will have a higher chance of being remembered as an applicant and subsequently accepted into the school.
In general, you can expect to hear back from your waitlist over the summer before you are supposed to officially enroll in law school. Most waitlist decisions are made through May, June, and July. It is rarer to hear back from a school after July, though it does happen. You may also hear back from a school once you've already committed to a different one, making for a difficult decision.
Waiting for Your Dream School
Even though placement onto a law school's waitlist can seem like a terrible thing, it may not be the worst thing to happen to you. After all, a waitlist means that there is still hope for you to be accepted into the school. If you want to increase your chances of admission from a waitlist, make sure to follow our tips of what to do when you are waitlisted, and remember to keep a positive attitude while you wait on an answer from your dream law school.