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Responding to

Hold and Wait List Letters

You should always respond to a letter offering you any hope for later acceptance. You may send additional information, affirm your interest in the law school without sending further material, or withdraw your application.

If you want to remain under consideration at a school which has placed you on hold, you should write saying so. Affirm your interest in the program as enthusiastically as possible. If you are sending additional information, either with your letter or separately, detail the information you are sending, so the law school knows what to expect and when your file will again be complete.  

A statement of interest in their school could make an enormous difference at wait list time. Schools that do not ask the question on the application are much more likely to care in April.  However, generic or uninformed statements count as no statements. Admissions officers have figured out that you're indiscriminately applying to enormous numbers of law schools.  They plan to offer seats only to those discriminating few who have offered a clear, credible reason for wanting to attend that school.  So if you're going to try this strategy, you'd better be prepared to tell them a good deal more than their US News ranking.  Also, remember to tell them why the information is important to you.  The representative for Northwestern laughed along with me when I told him of my client who wrote, "Northwestern Law School is right on Lake Michigan" without explaining why she cared about this.  

Finally, if you know your interest in this school has waned, either because of your acceptance at another school or because of a visit or other information that left you less impressed than previously, do the admissions officer and your fellow applicants a favor by withdrawing your application. The law school will not be offended if you write a brief note saying, "Thank you for informing me of the status of my application. I have decided to attend one of the schools which have already accepted me, and am withdrawing my application for admission."

Sending Additional Information

If a school requests additional information, you should respond promptly and affirmatively.

Many schools request updated transcripts at the end of the current semester. Request the transcript from your school, and send a letter affirming your interest and informing the school that the transcript has been ordered. If your grades were an improvement over recent semesters, you might want to enclose a copy of your grade report along with the letter. If you do so, make sure you indicate that an official transcript will follow.

If the school offers you the opportunity to send anything you want, you have three reasonable options:

  • you may send one additional recommendation, preferably from an instructor who taught you last semester or this one;
  • you may send information about any awards you have received since you applied, including acceptance letters to joint degree programs at the same school;
  • you may send something that shows your diversity more fully than you showed it in your application.

Answering Specific Questions

If a school requests information about a specific topic, consider their request carefully. Try to place yourself in the mind of the admissions committee: what are they looking for? Get an outsider's input; you may have overlooked something which would be obvious to a person who is not part of your life.

I once had a student who told me that his only hobby was watching football, either in the stadium or on TV. He had no part-time jobs. When Temple wrote him asking, "What do you do with your spare time?" he called me in distress. I sat him down to write a minute-by-minute itinerary of his weekend, beginning Friday at 4:00 and ending Sunday night. His answer was that Friday night he did his mother's grocery shopping and laundry, Saturday he cooked her a week's meals, and Sunday he took her to church. Then he watched football. When I asked about this unusual schedule, he finally "remembered" to mention that his mother has multiple sclerosis. His brief statement to this effect was rewarded in two weeks by a letter of acceptance.

A request to explain why you took a leave of absence or how a stated disability affects your school work should be answered completely and honestly (as should all questions). Remember that if the school is concerned enough to contact you with this question, a whitewash won't work. The admissions committee has a real concern they want met. If your leave of absence covered your admission to a drug rehab program, don't say, "I needed a break from school." In the first place, you haven't answered their concern. In the second place, taking six months off to neither work nor study does not paint a very good picture; the admissions committee isn't likely to pursue an applicant who could spend half a year sleeping and watching TV.

Offers of Interviews

Some law schools will contact you for an interview. If you want to have any chance of attending that school, respond promptly and enthusiastically. If the school is too far away to drive and you cannot afford to travel, write stating your interest in the school and the limitations which you face. Ask if an interview can be arranged in or near your city; suggest a recruiter who will be traveling in the area, or an esteemed graduate who lives in your locale. Take some initiative in this matter; try to find out the recruiting schedule of that school in your area; locate a graduate who might be willing to interview you. If all else fails, ask if you can be interviewed by phone.

Once you have arranged an interview, prepare for it. Read the law school's catalog and note any interesting courses or programs. Review your application to refresh your memory on what they asked and what you answered. Be prepared to answer three questions: "Why do you want to attend law school?" "Why this law school?" and "Why should we accept you?"

If you decide this school isn't worth the hassle of an interview, you probably don't really want to attend; do them the courtesy of withdrawing your application.

Continued Expressions of Interest

What if this is absolutely your first choice of law schools?  You can try writing a letter saying this, in a way that might get them to believe you.  You can show them your connections to the school or the area, schedule a visit, or otherwise explain your interest in them.  If you're still in committee or waitlisted this year, you can call every two weeks or so (unless the school says "don't bother us," as Harvard and NYU do) and reassert your interest.  You can keep them apprised of your summer activities, final grades and awards from college, etc.  Or you can ask them what will get you a seat, if you can get near a decision-maker.  At some schools, however, nothing you do will make a difference.  Which ones?  Click here.

After you've done all that, try prayer; a lot of people swear by it..

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