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Law School Waitlists: The Basics

Have you been put on one or more law school waitlists? Check out some of the most common questions we get about what waitlists are and how they work.

1. What is the purpose of a waitlist?

Schools often have more qualified candidates in their applicant pool than they have spots in the incoming class. The waitlist is a way for them to “hold” files for candidates they’re interested in, but don’t immediately have space for. Schools over-admit candidates, knowing that some will decline the offer for another law school. But sometimes (oftentimes), more accepted students decline admission offers than anticipated. In these cases, law schools turn to their waitlist to fill remaining spots in the class.
Some schools also use the waitlist as a form of “yield protect.” Law schools are incentivized to have high yield rates – meaning high conversion rates from the number of students accepted to the number of students enrolled. If you have high numbers for a school (say your LSAT is 20 points above a school’s 75th percentile), a school might want you to first express true interest in attending before admitting you outright.
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2. What are your chances of getting off law school waitlists?

There’s really no way to predict your odds for this question. The answer very much depends on the school, that particular admission cycle, the strength of the applicant pool, any admissions policies the school adheres to, and a host of other factors that you just won’t have insight to. If you want to get a sense for your chances – knowing that there’s no real answer here – you can call the admissions office and ask how many students they keep on the waitlist. You can also ask what percentage of the waitlist they’ve typically accepted in previous years, and check whether the list is ranked at all. Doing some research will help give you more context.

3. Can you remain on waitlists even after submitting your enrollment at another school?

Yes. You must withdraw any acceptances that you’ve already received at the time that you confirm your enrollment at a school. However, you can still remain on waitlists. Keep in mind that you might lose your initial enrollment deposit if you eventually move off a school’s waitlist and decide to attend that school instead. Still, we see this as a small price to pay for the opportunity to attend a school that better matches your career interests and goals.

4. Is there anything you can do to move off the waitlist?

Absolutely! Check out our post about how to navigate the waitlist. Or you can check out individual schools’ webpages for information on what to do if you’re waitlisted (for example, Berkeley’s). The most important thing to remember is that you haven’t been rejected yet. Your application file is still in the running when you’re waitlisted, and those schools are still interested in you. If you have a success story about moving off a waitlist, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

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