Getting Off Law School Waitlists

Getting Off Law School Waitlists

It’s May. That means many applicants are finding themselves on law school waitlists.

Daniel Waldman, a contributor at US News and admissions counselor at Stratus Admissions Counseling, recently discussed when and how law schools use waitlists.


A number of factors can determine whether a law school moves forward with candidates on its waitlist.

“Intuitively, you would think that the mass movement in waitlists comes with the first set of deposit deadlines, which, for most top 20 law schools, is in mid-April to mid-May, after which the schools immediately know how many empty spots they have left to fill,” Waldman writes. “However, that’s only partially true; once the deadlines have passed, schools spend a few weeks re-evaluating their needs based on the students already committed to the school. Therefore, the April-May deadlines only serve as the catalyst for waitlist movement.”

Additionally, Waldman says, deadlines can depend on other schools’ timelines and the current year applicant pool.

“So even though a school might have a mid-April deadline, its waitlist doesn’t really move until other, higher-ranked schools start cherry-picking its students,” Waldman writes.


It may seem like school admission is offered to applicants who are highest-ranked within a waitlist. However, Waldman says this is misleading.

“In a recent survey by the BARBRI Group, about 60% of admissions deans stated that the impact that an applicant’s LSAT score or undergraduate GPA will have on their overall admissions statistics is the most significant factor when deciding which applicant to admit off of the waitlist,” he writes. “Other responses included the strength of the applicant’s letter of continued interest and intent to immediately commit to the school if offered admission.”

Ann Levine, founder and chief law school admission consultant at Law School Expert, says waitlisted applicants should plan to schedule a campus tour to show interest.

“If you live in the same city or state and haven’t visited, the school isn’t going to think you’re very interested in attending,” Levine writes for the National Jurist. “Does this really help? People ask me that all the time. I had a client who was absolutely dying to go to law school and he didn’t care where so long as he could practice law one day. He flew himself across the country to visit a law school where he was waitlisted, where he’d been told he would have ten minutes with the assistant director of admissions. The ten minutes turned into an hour, and two days later he was admitted.”

Sources: US News, National Jurist