A waitlist (or reserve list as some schools refer to it) is comprised of applicants who the admissions committee has determined are academically qualified to attend the school, but the admissions committee is not yet prepared to offer the applicants a spot in the incoming class for various reasons. The manner in which law schools use waitlists varies significantly school-by-school and year-by-year. Most schools will keep large waitlists, however the notification of their decision can vary signifcantly. Some schools admit applicants off the wait list even before the deadline to apply has passed. Others wait until after the first seat deposit deadline (the deadline for admitted students to pay a fee to hold their seat in the incoming class) has passed to admit applicants from the waitlist. In more competitive years, law schools may not admit anyone from the waitlist.
If you have been waitlisted there are a few things you can do to let the school's know that you are still interested in attending. Before you begin, be sure to read the decision letter carefully. Some decision letters provide an action item, such as requesting to be placed on the waitlist. Most law schools will request you to return a form confirming your desire to remain on the waitlist. While it is important that you take this step, merely returning the form is not sufficient inorder to be admitted from the waitlist at many schools. Law schools often will not admit someone from the waitlist unless the applicant has advocated for their admission in some way. Note, however, that some law schools specifically instruct applicants placed on the waitlist not to submit any supplementary materials or take any steps in an effort to gain admission. If you are placed on a waitlist, it will be your responsibility to determine what a school permits from waitlisted applicants.
If you are permitted to submit supplemental materials, here are some next steps you can do to demonstrate your continued interest in law school:
- Letter of Continued Interest: About a one page statement which you can update the school on relevant information post-dating your application (i.e new academic awards, employment promotions, research projects, etc.) and explain in greater detail why you want to attend this particular school.
- Additional Letter of Recommendation: Many schools will accept one or more additional letters of recommendation from applicants placed on the wait list. If your school does accept them, remember that academic letters are more helpful to admissions committees.
- Updated Transcripts
- Updated Resume
You can also vist the campus to reaffirm you want to attend that particular law school and learn more about the school's atmosphere. Visiting a school conveys the seriousness of your interest in the school. In many cases, it may also lead to face time with an admissions representative, which can be helpful.
Remember, to be your own advocate. Think about the reasons you want to attend that particular law school and why you fit in their class.
Things to consider
While you are on the waitlist for a school you should ask yourself:
- Do you seriously see yourself attending this law school?
- How late in the summer are you willing to stay on the waitlist?
- Research costs, possibility of scholarships, housing, financing your law school - it is likely you won’t have much time to decide after you’ve been admitted.
- What will you do if you’re placed in multiple waitlists?
Be patient - If at some point your plans about attending the school change, notify the school and ask to be removed from the waitlist; continue to update your contact info over the summer if it changes.