The Waiting Game: Embrace It

Law School Expert Blog

I’m hearing from a lot of my law school admission consulting clients today about their aggravation with the waiting game. They’ve applied to law school and they just want me to tell them where they’ll get into law school, to devise a mathematical calculation that proves where they’ll be admitted and where they won’t.

I am happy to spend time talking with these clients and to let them know that there are good days and bad days in this process, that one school’s rejection doesn’t mean that every other school ranked higher will also result in a rejection,  to tell people they are strong enough to handle this. One of my most professional, business-oriented clients today told me today that this lack of predictability meant the system was messed up, and since I know he reads this blog (he often quotes my own advice back to me) I wanted to share what I didn’t get to say – or think to say – during our conversation:

The unpredictable nature of getting into law school, the fact that your index alone does not dictate your end result, is the reason to LOVE the system. For those of you with a split – high GPA/low LSAT or high LSAT/low GPA,  or just those who apply to reach schools,  the fact that there isn’t a numerical calculation that mandates your response means you have a SHOT. It means you get the opportunity to show who you are beyond the numbers, it means the hard work you put into your essays, resume, letters of rec, addenda, etc. have the possibility of paying off.

This is the time of year when people start hearing from law schools, and when you start by hearing a rejection it can be deflating, or at least feel deflating. But remember, this is just a bad day. That’s all it is. Use it as an excuse to treat yourself to a movie or mocha mint latte, but don’t start applying to law schools furiously out of fear. Be confident in the fact that you put serious thought into your schools list and hold tight.  Thanks to the Internet and cell phone age, you could hear any minute that you’ve been admitted to law school. Just hang tight. And, when that happens, please do celebrate! Another movie! Another mocha mint latte! Don’t just say, “ok, Next????” or “Where’s my scholarship???”

If you let yourself get psyched out during this process, how will you be strong when you’re a 1L surrounded by competitive people who all seem to be more brilliant, more on top of things, and more likely to succeed than you because they claim to know all the secrets of success? How will you deal with waiting for law school exam grades, job offers, bar examination results? Use this time as your dress rehearsal for those future waiting games. You can do this.

37 Responses

  1. Thank you Ann for such a perfectly-timed blog post! I was JUST searching online stats for acceptances/rejections on LSN when I saw this–calms my nerves!

  2. Amen! As someone in the middle of the waiting game, I could not agree more. If law school was a simple admit/deny process based on index scores, people would be able to save a lot of money each year in application fees. Take my current situation as just one example: denied at a school ranked in the T30s, admitted to several schools in the T20s, and waitlisted at schools in the T14s. It may not make much sense, but neither do jury verdicts — this is the profession we are choosing.

  3. Hi Ann,
    So I’m most likely jumping the gun on this one but I’m a worrier…I submitted all of my applications in late December. So far I’ve been accepted to one school and pending at the other three. In my resume and personal statement, I noted a recent promotion that I had received at my current job (a one sentence mention in each). I was called into the assistant vice president’s office along with my boss in Nov and advised that “Congratulations, you’ve been promoted and it will be effective by the end of December.” To date, the promotion has not yet been finalized which is concerning. I emailed my boss about this last week(to have this in writing). I spoke with him yesterday and he said that it’s still “In process”. So my questions are: how big of a deal do you think this would be if I have to amend my resume and/or personal statement if the promotion does not materialize? Should I contact the schools immediately and advise them of the pending status, or wait until I know for sure?

  4. I would have to agree with Ann that we should embrace the fact that index scores do not dictate our end results. In my case, I was recently admitted to a school that in 2008 rejected 52% of the applicants with my LSAT/GPA ranges. Not only was I admitted, but I was offered a scholarship as well. This year is probably an even more competitive year, so I feel that school must have looked at more than just my numbers and that the application package I created (with Ann as my consultant I might add) made all the difference.

  5. HIya, i have a question about notification “dos and don’ts.” If one does hear about an admit randomly in a phone call is there any specific way this should be handled? Are admissions officers looking for an agreement right then, is excitement and thanks an appropriate response? Should you mention factors you are weighing etc? Ha, even the prospect of good news can be stressful.


    1. tcat,
      Just be gracious, be excited, thank the person. Get their contact info to follow up if you have questions later. No need to agree to anything immediately or make any promises or tell them what you are weighing, but ok to ask whether there are scholarships you can apply for or be considered for.


  6. Hi Ann,
    I have a question to ask about this “waiting game.” I know for a fact that the one school I want to get into I am totally borderline as far as LSAT and GPA go. In fact I am on the lowest end of what they accept. I’ve already received a denial from a school that ranks slightly higher than them, so I’m super worried now. Is there anything I can do, write a letter to the dean, anything that will help during this critical time? I’ve tried to get help from the admissions office but their rep is just giving me generic answers like “you can if you want to” or “just wait.” I’ve already visited them, and spoken with admissions reps who I feel just keeping giving me the line. What’s the scoop? Can I go the extra mile in anyway to help increase my chances?

    1. Hi Ana,
      I promise that the decision of one law school does not impact the other, and the other comments on this post prove that to be true. You’ve visited them, made a contact. I don’t know how long ago you’ve applied, but it sounds like you’re being proactive. Showing them you’re very interested will help unless you go overboard and start stalking them….

  7. Ann, is it ever possible to change a “no” into a “yes”? I had planned to visit one of my schools next week–we had the appointment set up and all. Yesterday, my status changed to decision made and I suspect that it is a reject. Should I continue with the visit and softly plead my case or is a reject absolute?

  8. Ann —
    Thanks so much for this post. I knew that waiting would be hard and rollercoasterish. It’s been harder than I expected, but also taught me a lot too.
    I have only one thing to add, and that it’s that all of this anxiety can go in good and bad directions. The good: you realize you aren’t in control of everything and that maybe some things happen for a reason (like my lovely little waitlist from UCLA today!) even if you don’t know what that reason is right now. You can read novels, or travel, or do things that challenge you in other ways, at least partly in the name of distraction 😉 You can embrace the good news when it comes, and lean on your friends and loved ones when it doesn’t.
    OR, you could … spend way too much time on message board sites and lawschoolnumbers and try (futilely) to deduce patterns with other people who have been admitted and denied and try and predict the future (I am guilty of this!) Maybe you could even hire a psychic (I’ve been close! I wonder what percentage of the US psychic industry business relates to anxious law students… ;). I really think that this is why these sites are so popular, and in some ways make the internet age a really crappy time to apply! BUT ultimately, no matter what you do, you still won’t *really* know until you actually know, until you get the letter or email or phone call. Would you want to know the minute you submitted your applications, because a computer put you into a formula and spat out an answer? I don’t think so. And what did all of that worrying do, besides freak you out and suck your time away and make you less of a fun, informed person to be around?
    Not to sound cheesy or new-agey, but I feel like the admissions process reminds me a lot of yoga 🙂 Both have taught me about just who, exactly, is in charge of the way that I react to the world.

  9. This whole application process has been a revelation to me. Going into the cycle, I prepared a list of schools, any one of which I would have been thrilled to attend. Some were safeties, some were reaches, and at least 2 were chosen because Ann suggested them. I was hoping to get one or two acceptances and then make a decision. Working with Ann, I spent a great deal of time and effort working on my LOR’s, PS, resume, and addenda. Not one word in one document was taken for granted. We reviewed literally everything.

    I fired off the applications and the waiting game began. To my surprise, the first acceptance, with scholarship money, came a mere 3 weeks later! This made me change my outlook, as I figured “hey, if one school can reply that quickly, maybe the others will, too”. Big mistake. What I greatly underestimated was the amount of patience and fortitude necessary to make it through this process and still be a reasonably pleasant person to be around.

    When I first started applying, it was obvious that the schools had all the power. The ball was in their court. But as the acceptances started rolling in, I came to realize that a power shift was occurring. Some schools provide scholarship information when the acceptances are generated, some much later. The trick for me is to gather as much information as possible before making a decision. It’s like a very important game of chicken. Whoever blinks first, loses. It seems to me that if I enroll at a particular school, their motivation to possibly offer any money dwindles rapidly.

    Regarding LSN and its kind, I can now attest that it’s interesting and informative and entertaining, but it is certainly NOT definitive. If you were to look at my numbers and compare them to the published stats of the schools I’ve received acceptances to, you’d shake your head. I can plainly demonstrate that a lot more than just numbers goes into the decisions that the committees make. I feel as if my LOR’s and PS and such have effectively added several points to my LSAT score. That’s priceless.

    And remember the definition of median and the 25/75 scores. Somebody (actually several somebodies) is getting in below those scores. If somebody is doing it, it might as well be you.

    My last words of wisdom. Never stand between a law school applicant and their mailbox after the mail is delivered. That’s a personal injury suit waiting to happen!

  10. Please don’t read the online forums telling you not to apply if you have a certain LSAT score. They are incredibly inaccurate. I was waitlisted at American University with an LSAT score 6 points below the 25th percentile. I’m positive that Ann was instrumental in this. But the point is that if you have a solid package with everything else you still have a shot. It’s not all about the numbers.

  11. Ann:
    Read this blog post again today (at least 3rd time). Helps me each time I read it. No denials yet, so I guess all is still good. No admits either though.

  12. Do the admission’s offices close during the school’s spring break? Three of my colleges have spring break this week. Just wondering if I should even be looking for anything.

    1. If the law school is one spring break, Wendi, then you won’t be able to sit in on a class and tours may be limited but admission offices should still be open.

  13. Dear Ann,
    May I ask for your opinion. I applied to John Marshall LS in September. My LSAT is few points below their 25th percentile, but the GPA is pretty good. I have not heard anything from them yet. My status checker changed 2 weeks ago to “in review by admissions committee” but it’s been 6 months now. Am I the only one who has been yanked around for this long, or have you heard of people not having ANY communication at all for this long? I called the admissions office and they said to keep checking the status web site for any updates. I wonder if it means that I am actually wait listed and they are thinking about me, or contemplating a rejection. However, my situation is not completely hopeless. I have an offer to another law school already, and 2 wait lists, from which I am hoping to gain an admission. But the waiting game (without any rules) with JM is killing me.

  14. Hi Nina,
    Schools were really bogged down with apps this year and a lot of schools are taking a long time to get through the increased number of applications with limited staff. Don’t read anything into the final decision on this one…. and good luck!

  15. I have been waitlisted at all the tier one schools I have applied to. Generally speaking, what are ones chances of being pulled off the waitlist?

    Im starting to think most schools arent even planning on tapping into their waitlists and im getting my hopes up for no reason…

    1. Lauren, You’re wrong. Well you can’t calculate your chances because there’s no way to predict a school’s need each year (the whole reason they have WLs in the first place), I can promise you this –
      If you do nothing to get off the WL, you will NOT get in. The only people they pick will be people who made it clear they would attend if admitted.

  16. I have been wait listed for a school I want to attend, but I have not yet scheduled a visit to the school.Since I applied so late in the season and finals are taking place this week, is it too late for me to schedule a visit? If I do ask for a tour…would I be drawing negative attention to the fact that I haven’t visited before now???


    1. J, they may not allow formal visits at this time but you can still go and talk to people and check it out and walk into the admission office and write a follow up letter….. Show initiative!

  17. I think that everything said made a great deal of sense. But, think about this, what if you were to write a awesome post title? I am not saying your content is not solid., however suppose you added something that makes people want more? I mean Law School Expert » The Waiting Game: Embrace It is a little vanilla. You ought to glance at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create news titles to get viewers to open the links. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to get readers excited about everything’ve got to say. Just my opinion, it might bring your posts a little livelier.

  18. Typo: when discussing splitters you said high GPA/ low LSAT, or Low LSAT/high gpa.. Same thing backwards.

  19. Hi Ann,

    Would you recommend that an applicant who has been deferred from an ED application to a t14 school hang tight, or should he/she send a LOCI expressing the desire to attend?

    Deferred since December, and LSAT is lower than school’s median.


    1. Hi Ricardo, an update about your more recent activities would be in order, but a statement of interest isn’t necessary since you applied ED – they know you’re serious.

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