What’s a Re-Applicant to Do?

So, you’re re-applying to law school. Don’t worry. You are certainly not alone. Every year, we receive a number of emails from inquisitive re-applicants asking to know how they might sharpen their applications/improve their chances of admission, and this year is certainly no exception. Consequently, I thought I might provide a few thoughts for those of you re-applying to W&L Law (and other law schools) to consider as you plan and prepare for the upcoming admissions cycle.

Be Objective…

You need to honestly review your application (not to mention application process). What do you think it was that resulted in your receiving a less than favorable decision from whatever school you really wanted to attend? For some applicants it can be one thing or many things, but either way, you absolutely must evaluate the constituent parts of your file before beginning the application process.

As a general policy, we will not discuss your file with you, but, in my experience, I’ve found most applicants have a reasonable idea as to why their application process played out in a particular way. Did you apply too late? Is your LSAT score not quite as competitive as it could be? Was your personal statement truly your best example of your writing ability? Were your recommenders people who actually knew you well?

Once again, imagine you are an admissions officer. What are the strengths of your file? What are the weaknesses? How might you overcome any such deficiencies? Sometimes such issues are easily resolved. Other times they require more work. Either way, this is the sort of unflinching and objective assessment you must perform before you apply. While admissions cycles do vary from year to year, they can also be remarkably similar. Sure, last year was the most competitive cycle in the history of our law school (we received 32 applications for every seat in our incoming class). However, each and every one of our matriculants would have been a viable candidate in any year they applied. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of, well, let’s just say a less than rewarding admissions cycle.

Is Your Application Still You?

Admittedly, this is a bit of a strange question. It’s not every day I get to pose such an existential, application-inspired query. Of course, your application is still all about you. However, if you were to submit the exact same application this year as last year, would it truly reflect who you are or rather who you were?

First and foremost, we will know you are a re-applicant and will likely access your previous application when reviewing your current file. Some re-applicants choose to submit the exact same documentation from one year to the next, and that is fine (after all, it is your choice). However, is that the best choice? Survey says, maybe not. We assume a certain amount of growth over the course of an admissions cycle, and submitting year-old letters of recommendation, an aged personal statement or (perhaps even stranger) a dated resume, often belies this assumption.

However, please note: This does not mean you absolutely have to find two new recommenders, draft a new personal statement or dramatically recast your law school application. It does mean you should review your application’s documentation to make sure it fully captures just who you are at this particular juncture in your life. If any part of your application fails to achieve this end, it should, no, it must be revised. If you spent a lot of time on your law school applications last year, I realize this is likely less than welcome news.

As much as I enjoy discussing the application process, I know applying to law school is not exactly fun. However, I encourage you to ignore the temptations of the path of least resistance and really take a hard look at your application. While it is always dangerous to generalize in admissions matters, nevertheless, every year, we accept re-applicants who were previously waitlisted or denied. What accounts for this difference in outcomes? These applicants performed the very sort of rigorous analysis I am recommending here and set about improving those aspects of their file in need of work. I’m certain they would say it wasn’t easy or convenient, but I feel almost equally confident they would also say it was (eventually) extremely rewarding.

Keep in Touch…

Don’t be a stranger. We enjoy getting to know our applicants, and if you remain extremely interested in attending W&L Law, please let us know. We may not necessarily be able to do anything with this information, but we are always trying to identify those people (even very early in the admissions process) for whom our law school is truly and sincerely their number one choice. Once you’ve applied, send me an email (twittys@wlu.edu). Come to campus. Get to know us. These sorts of personal connections (within reason – restraint is often the better part of valor when conducting such outreach) can sometimes help. They may not always prove transformative, but they are certainly more helpful than complete anonymity.

And lastly, remember: Your application is our one opportunity to get to know you. Make each and every part of it count.

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