Our Waiting List…

I hope you had a nice weekend! I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our waiting list, so I thought I would take a moment to address a few of the more common queries here.

First, if you haven’t had a chance, please take a moment to review our webpage for waitlisted students as well as our Information Sheet for students on our waiting list. Both of these resources contain a wealth of information and address a number of questions applicants frequently have about the waiting list process at W&L Law.

How many students are placed on the waiting list?

The number of students on our waiting list varies from year to year. In admissions, every year is different, and past experience, especially when it comes to the waiting list, is not necessarily predictive of how a given cycle will unfold.

As you likely know from some of our application correspondence, we tend to proceed very cautiously when assembling a class. This conservative approach is largely the product of our small size and our firm belief that this smallness (for lack of a better word) is at the root of both our educational mission and institutional identity. With an incoming class size of 134, we are simply unable to take everyone we believe could manage the work of attending our law school. Even five or ten extra students would fundamentally alter a class and, perhaps most importantly, classroom dynamic. As a result, we often have to place people we believe could be extremely successful at our law school on our waiting list.

How many students were placed on the waiting list last year?

As a general policy, we do not release these sorts of statistics. However, as noted above, the number of students placed on the waiting list in a prior year has little to no bearing on the number of students who will be placed on the waiting list this year. No two admissions cycles are alike, and, consequently, the number of students who are admitted, denied or waitlisted in a given year largely depends upon a great many variables specific to that cycle (application volume, overall quality of applicants, enrollment goals, etc.).

How many students are typically admitted from the waiting list?

This too varies from year to year. In my four prior admissions cycles, we were able to offer some applicants on our waiting list a seat in our incoming class, however the number of seats offered varied (and sometimes considerably) from year to year. This variation to be expected. It is largely the product of the fact that the waitlist process depends upon a great many factors (number of seat deposits, enrollment goals, summer melt (i.e. how many deposited applicants we lose over the course of a summer), how we are working to round out class) that are often beyond our control and naturally change with each admissions cycle.

Last year, there was a great deal of waitlist activity at a number of law schools, and we extended a number of offers to candidates on our waiting list. In the prior year, very few people left our class between our two deposit deadlines (as noted above, this is called “melt”). Consequently, we were able to admit very few people from our waiting list. The previous year, we experienced slightly more melt and were able to accept a few more people from our waiting list. We may know our enrollment goals, but identifying the number of people who are going to leave our deposit class (the single factor that has the most impact on the waiting list process at our school) is nearly impossible to predict. Consequently, while we will more than likely be in a position to extend offers of admission to people on our waiting list, it is extremely difficult to anticipate just how many offers we will be able to extend. And, of course, it is always possible that we may not be in a position to extend any offers of admission to candidates on our waiting list. Really, only time will tell.

What are my chances of being admitted from the waiting list?

As the above comments indicate, one’s chances of being admitted from the waiting list are not necessarily equivalent to one divided by the total number of students on the waiting list. Receiving an offer of admission from the waiting list depends upon a lot of different things (for example, melt from our deposit class, how your application lines up with our enrollment goals or how we are working to round out a class, your interest in our law school, your willingness to accept an offer on very short notice or late in the admissions cycle), but is not necessarily dependent upon the total number of students on our waiting list.

This may surprise some of you, but I think it’s helpful to think about what we’re trying to do when admitting people from our waiting list. Sometimes, we are trying to round out our class in a particular way, so a certain aspect of your file may be of particular interest to us. If you are one of the people on our waiting list who happens to help us in this regard, your chances of receiving an offer of admission are clearly better than average. More often than not, we are also trying to add people to our class we know really want to attend our law school, and who we have enjoyed getting to know during the previous months. For me, offering a waitlisted candidate a seat in our class, particularly if I know that candidate well (which I often do) is truly one of my favorite parts of my job. That’s always a great day. If W&L is your top choice, you should absolutely let us know. We are not always able to act upon this information, but it is always helpful to know.

Furthermore, given that we typically make waitlist offers in the summer, time is typically of the essence. If someone leaves our class, we usually want to fill that seat as quickly as possible (however, there are times when, for enrollment reasons, we choose not to). Consequently, it is imperative that we reach out to people we know will accept our offer (or who will need very little time to contemplate their decision). Consequently, if you have already let us know that if offered a seat in our incoming class you will absolutely accept, this can sometimes have a real impact on whether or not you are admitted from our waiting list. It is not necessarily a guarantee of anything, but it will rarely if ever hurt your chances of admission.

However, please know, as a general note, if you receive an offer of admission from our waiting list, you will typically have less than a day to think about it. Consequently, you should really take this time to figure out how where our law school falls along the spectrum of law schools to which you applied and just how interested you are in attending W&L Law.

I’m really interested in W&L Law. What can I do to improve my chances of admission?

To be perfectly honest, not too much. However, as noted above, there are a few things you can do that can sometimes have an impact on the course of your admissions cycle at our school.

1) Keep in touch. Attending our law school is a very personal experience. You will likely know everyone around you, and they will know you, and we strive for this personal touch in the admissions process. Consequently, we enjoy getting to know our applicants. If you are on our waiting list and are really interested in attending our law school, I would encourage you to reach out to us periodically over the coming months.

Please note, this outreach does not need to be an every day or even every week thing. In fact, I would counsel you against contacting us every day or every week. That’s probably too much (particularly at this point in the cycle, but really any time, for that matter). Typically reaching out to us every few weeks or once a month is sufficient. Please know, this does not need to be in the form of a letter (or something equally formal). While such gestures are appreciated, an email or a phone call is really all that is necessary to convey your continued interest. And believe it or not, an email or phone call is often more effective than a hard mailing. For one, they are more immediate. Secondly, as we are a paperless office, an email is much easier to add to your file. However you plan to approach this process, please be sure you’ve identified a strategy that is sustainable. Patience is a virtue (and definitely part of the process) when it comes to the waiting list.

2) If W&L Law is your number one choice, let us know. As noted above, we are not always able to act upon this information, but it is always good to know, and it rarely if ever hurts a candidate’s chances of admission.

3) If offered a seat in our incoming class, if you will absolutely accept, let us know. Please note, however, that there is typically no scholarship money available when we are extending waitlist offers (this is usually quite late in the admissions cycle and our finite scholarship budget is already completely allocated). Consequently, you will need to take this into account when considering whether or not you will be in a position to accept an offer if one is extended to you. However, if, after reflecting upon the financial dimensions of this decision, you still believe you will absolutely accept an offer of admission if one is extended to you, please let us know. This is also always good to know and rarely if ever hurts a candidate’s chances of admission.

4) Schedule a visit. If you are seriously considering our law school, you really need to know if Lexington and W&L Law are the right fit for you. As you have likely heard many times by now, our law school is different than almost every other law school in the country. We are a very small school (400 total students) in a very small town (Lexington’s population is around 7,000). One of the best (and arguably only) ways to figure out if you are the kind of student who will thrive in our small, personal, collegial environment is to visit.

And you have options. We offer phone interviews, individual visits and even a few Preview Days for Waitlisted Students. Most of our incoming students will visit at some point in their decision-making process, and, if you are seriously thinking about W&L Law, it is imperative that you do your research long before you are ever offered a seat in our incoming class. If you would like to schedule an individual visit, please be sure to check out our Visit Schedule. Provided that classes are in session, all individual visits include the opportunity to attend a class, take a tour of the law school led by a current student, and meet with an admissions representative. Additional information about our Preview Day can be found on our webpage for students on our waiting list.

Please note, doing one of the above is more than ample opportunity for you to learn about our law school, so please do not feel like you need to schedule a phone intervew, visit campus AND join us for our Preview Day to fully communicate your interest in our law program. Similarly, if you come for an individual visit, it is not necessary for you to join us for Preview Day. We know you have limited time and resources, and we do not want you to feel pressured to travel to Lexington multiple times in the coming months. Sometimes, a phone interview is enough for you to get a better sense of our school and have any questions you might have answered.

5) Update your file. Let me begin by saying, with regard to this suggestion, restraint is the better part of valor. In a great many ways, we already have all the information we need to fully consider your candidacy. Consequently, it is not necessary to send in additional letters of recommendation, samples of academic work, or any of the supporting documentation we regularly receive from candidates on our waiting list. Furthermore, absent some significant personal or professional event, please do not feel as if you need to continually update your resume over the course of the coming months. It is not that we are not interested in these things (we are). Rather, our reluctance to accept such supplements is the direct result of the small size of our office. We are only a few people, and, given the fact that we are managing thousands of applications, we only have so much time to devote to updating the contents of each applicant’s file.

However, for those of you who are currently in school, you should absolutely update your transcript once your first semester grades are available (and once second semester grades are released). The easiest way to do this is via LSAC. Simply send them your new transcript, and they will send an updated CAS report to us.

The above are merely suggestions and are certainly not required. Nor are they guarantees of anything. It is certainly possible to receive an offer of admission from our waiting list without doing any of the above. At this point in the admissions cycle, we are unable to say whether or not we will be in a position to extend offers to people on our waiting list. It is simply too early. This information is merely provided to (hopefully) bring a little more clarity to what we know is a rather vague process, and we sincerely wish there was more definitive information with which we could provide you.

However, wherever you may be in this process, please note, it’s a long time until May 1 (our first deposit deadline and more than likely the first time we will be in a position to reach out to candidates on our waiting list), so patience and persistence are key. As there are updates, we will let you know. And of course, if we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can be reached by email at LawAdm@wlu.edu or by phone at 540.458.8503.

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