Deferral to Regular Admission?

Law School Expert Blog

Santa Clara Law is among the schools that sent out “deferral” notices this week. What does a “deferral to regular admission” really mean?

If you applied Early Action or Early Decision (binding) to any law schools, they will make one of 3 decisions on your application by the deadline they provide (usually December 15th). They may decide to:

1. Accept (but this is very rare; the law school’s only interest here is to admit those that will help bring their numbers up and to offer scholarships – thereby creating excitement early on in the feedback part of the admission cycle);

2. Reject (also very rare because the school has the prerogative to wait to reject you later and there is little reason for them to do so before they know whether or not they’ll be able to fill their class); and

3. The Most Common Response – Deferral to the Regular Admission Cycle.

So, what does this really mean? Absolutely nothing! Your status is completely unchanged from what it was when you applied. You’ll still be considered on the merits.

Regular readers of my blog know that law schools like to defer and waitlist and “hold” applicants because they are judged by rankings partially according to acceptance rates. By giving out fewer “admit” letters, they can control their acceptance rates. They want you to work a little harder. Law Schools want to be able to judge the likelihood with which you’ll actually attend their school before they hand out the precious law school acceptance letter.

So, if you’re deferred to regular admission at a school you’d really like to attend then fight for it. Demonstrate your continued interest in that school. Keep them in the loop with updates, especially new grades coming out this month. (Just don’t annoy anyone in the admissions office by calling too often or saying too much).

Here is further explanation of Early Action and Early Decision programs for those of you just getting up to speed for Fall 2009 Law School Admission. I’m happy to take questions or comments….

11 Responses

  1. I’ve been hesitant to email or call because I don’t want to seem like a nag and I know they are so busy. But, what would be an example of an acceptable way to keep in touch – esp. for those of us with no grade updates to send and no news! 🙂

  2. Hi Kristen,
    Thanks for your comment.
    If it’s a school you really hope to attend, a campus visit is in order. You can call and schedule a tour and a classroom visit, and follow up with a thank-you letter and a statement of your continued interest in the school.
    Good luck!

  3. Hi Ms. Levin,
    I was placed on reserve after applying to a long (long) shot reach during the early application process. I was then told to expect a decision in February and March, where I was again placed on hold. My numbers are out of range but I bring a lot of diversity and work experience to the pool. Why would a school defer someone twice? Any advice on how I could sway the committee?

    1. Liz,
      Do whatever you can to show them you would attend if offered admission and that you’d immediately withdraw all other applications….
      Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  4. I got into a law school on a binding Early Decision basis. However, I have now come to realize that I made a mistake because I’m not ready to start law school next year. I know that it’s nearly impossible to defer admission as an ED applicant (especially if, like me, one is without a compelling reason), so can I instead renege on this obligation and not go to law school at all until the year after next? I’m worried that other schools can find out if I do this, and so I will look dishonest and unreliable. Help please!

    1. Jess, I would start by calling the law school and talking with someone about it. Be frank – that you’re just not feeling ready. See what they say.

  5. Ms. Levine, thank you for responding to my inquiry so quickly! I really appreciate your guidance. I will definitely call the school and see what they say. However, I’m also wondering, since I’m freaked out about moving away from friends and family, what would happen if I decided I wanted to go to a law school closer to home instead. If I don’t go to the ED school, will other schools find out about it?
    Thank you so much–you’re awesome!!

  6. I am currently in T50 school part-time and had applied ED Transfer to T20 school (part-time). I was deferred to regular decision cycle. I was wondering what could I do to improve my chances of getting in besides raising my grades.


    1. Hi Suzie,
      You’re still being considered, just not ED. I don’t think you need to go crazy doing anything differently, but do update the school if there are new accomplishments.

  7. Hi Ms. Levine,

    I am an applicant in the 2018-2019 cycle. I read your book and it is really helpful. I received an email from a T10 school informing that my early decision application will be reviewed with the larger pool of regular decision applicants. I am wondering if I should do anything.

    On the one hand, I want to express that I appreciate the opportunity to continue to be under consideration by the admissions office; on the other hand, I don’t want to appear as insecure or impatient. I am out of school and don’t expect any change in my employment in the foreseeable future. Do you think I should contact the admissions office or just sit tight?

    Thank you,


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