What Happens After You Apply
Wondering when you'll hear from the schools you applied to and what happens next? Scroll down for information about decision-timing, waitlists, scholarship negotiations, deposits, and more.
Preseason for Decisions
Admissions Officers (AOs) are focused on recruiting events.
Acceptances will trickle in at the end of the month. Among T14 schools, Duke and UVA tend to make the earliest offers. Students admitted early typically have above-median LSAT scores.
To-do: Nothing for schools you've already applied to, unless you might retake the LSAT.
AOs are pivoting from recruiting to evaluating applications.
Scattered results, mostly acceptances, will come in at a slightly faster pace. Yale will send a few offers of "presumptive admission"—applications that never go to a faculty committee.
To-do: Meditate. Breathe.
End of Preseason
AOs are wading deeply into applications. Most of them are trying to set up and secure their target medians, so students with above-median numbers are more likely to hear from them.
Results will begin to ramp up, including early waitlist notifications and rejections, though acceptances are more common at this point in the cycle.
To-do: If you're still in school and your fall grades have improved, send an updated transcript to LSAC. You can also send schools a short email to let them know the good news. Include your own copy of the new transcript.
If your grades held steady, you can send a new transcript to LSAC, but you shouldn't tell schools the non-news.
Prime Decision Season
AOs are getting a picture of both the applicant pool and their incoming class as they continue to battle the application pile.
Results will pile in, including some from Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia.
January is the high-water mark of acceptances. It's also the biggest month for interviews.
To-do: Prepare for interviews, if applicable. Research schools and perhaps connect with current students in preparation of letters of continued interest.
AOs will finish admitting the majority of their classes.
Decisions will continue to pile in. Schools will send more rejections and waitlists, but some of them—especially top schools—will accept a large portion of their class this month.
To-do: Consider sending letters of continued interest to schools that you haven't heard from, so long as you applied over a month ago. Jump down to the section on waitlists.
End of Decision Season
AOs will try to clear outstanding applications before the deposit deadline. At some schools, they will begin to consider scholarship reconsideration requests.
This is the high-water mark of both rejections and waitlists, and the last big month of acceptances.
To-do: Because scholarships, like seats, are offered on a rolling basis, this can be a great month to request more money—provided that you have another substantial offer and that (of course) the target school allows such requests. If you expect to get another scholarship offer soon, we advise you not to request more aid yet. Learn more here.
First Deposit Deadlines
AOs are pivoting from selecting the incoming class to yielding the class that they've selected—from choosing to being chosen. The first deposit deadline—usually in mid to late April for two-deposit schools—is a chance to preview their yield.
Waitlist notifications will pile in.
To-do: Send a substantial letter of continued interest to schools that waitlisted you. April is also a good month to make a scholarship reconsideration request, as schools may be anxious to secure your deposit.
In the wake of the first deposit, AOs are filling any holes that may have developed in their class.
May is the high-water mark of waitlist-admissions offers at top schools, and such offers tend to propagate downward: School 1 takes Person A from School 2; School 2 takes Person B from School 3, etc.
To-do: Visit schools if possible and negotiate for financial aid. Think about where you'll deposit.
Final Deposit Deadlines
AOs are using waitlist acceptances and scholarship awards to finalize the class.
June is the last big month of waitlist movement. (Alas, the word "big" is relative here.)
To-do: Send your most impassioned and persuasive LOCI just before or just after a school's final deposit deadline. This is also a good time to request more financial aid if you haven't already—or possibly, even if you have. Finally, of course, you can choose a school!
July and August
AOs are using up their scholarship budgets if they haven't already and dealing with summer melt (deposited students who decide not to enroll).
It is still possible to receive a reconsidered scholarship over the summer or (though this is less likely) an offer of admission from the waitlist.
To-do: Continue to send LOCIs to schools that waitlisted you, and consider calling schools to express your interest. Politely, persistently ask for as much scholarship money as a school can give you.
September to April
It’s easy to get anxious after you apply, especially when everyone else seems to be getting accepted, but the first rule of waiting is that no news isn’t bad news. It’s no news.
There are all sorts of reasons why schools may get back to one applicant before another. It might be a simple issue of submission priority: the first files in may be the first files out. In other cases, the timing of decisions may be the result of random sorting. If applications are divided among readers, for example, some of those readers may be faster than others.
A number of schools do reach out to their strongest applicants first, but you shouldn’t conclude that other applicants will be rejected. Indeed, the strongest applicants are also least likely to enroll—they’ll have other options—so schools will need to admit many more people to fill the class.
If you want to get busy while you wait, you can signal your interest to a school by attending a virtual event or requesting to speak with a current student. If you’re really committed, and if you think you can improve your score, consider retaking the LSAT. A lower score is unlikely to diminish your chances after you’ve applied, but a higher score can still improve them. Admissions offices might refrain from reviewing your application, though, if they see that you’re registered for another test.
October through April
Most schools don’t interview. A few, such as Northwestern, offer interviews to all applicants, while others, such as Harvard, offer interviews by invitation only.
If a school offers optional interviews, you should schedule one. If it offers interviews by invitation only, you should not request one, but you shouldn’t panic either. Many students are admitted to selective-interview schools without ever speaking to an admissions officer, just as many students are denied admission after doing their interviews.
You can learn more about interviews here.
December through August
Most law schools get more qualified applicants than they can admit. A waitlist decision means something like, “We think you could succeed here, but you’re not our top choice.”
If you happen to be waitlisted, your main goal isn’t to emphasize that you’re smart or hardworking. You’ve already cleared that bar. Your main goal is to persuade the committee that you’ll enrich the community. More specifically, you should make the case that you’ll actually matriculate (it being hard to enrich a community if you’re not part of it), that you’ll participate in activities, and that you’ll model the school’s values. In short, you’ll be the type of student that the admissions committee can connect with prospective students two years later.
How you convey that—or even if you convey that—depends on the school. A few have an “updates only” policy, meaning that they don’t want another essay. Others might give you the option of uploading an extra essay in response to a specific prompt (you should take them up on it, of course), or else they might give you a limited window of time in which you can send a new essay. If they don’t give you instructions, you should send a letter of continued interest that details what you like about the school, why you’ll fit in, and how you’ll contribute to campus life. Your letter can also include updates: a new job, a new honor, or anything else that bears on your application.
Follow up on your letter of interest every three to four weeks by sending shorter “pings” to let the school know that you remain interested. There are a few other ways to signal your continued enthusiasm. You can call the admissions office with a question, speak with a current student, or visit (virtually if necessary).
Note that you might also send a letter of continued interest to a school that you haven’t heard from by mid-February, so long as you’ve applied at least a month earlier. Exercise caution with all unsolicited correspondence.
You can read more about the waitlist here.
March through May
Before you’re accepted to law schools, you’re trying to get admissions committees to pick you. After you’re accepted, admissions committees are trying to get you to pick them.
One way that law schools try to improve their yield is by offering scholarships to certain accepted students. The initial offers are based on LSAT scores and other factors that you can’t control, but you may be able to improve on that initial offer (or lack thereof).
Before we go any further, we should note that some schools won’t negotiate your scholarship. Read each school’s website carefully, along with any information you receive after acceptance, and follow their instructions to a T. As with all matters related to law school admissions, the first and most important rule is to follow directions.
If a school entertains scholarship reconsideration requests, you want to convince them that (1) you’re seriously considering their offer and (2) trying to make it work, but because you’re worried about your finances, you’re also (3) considering a less-expensive offer. Those three imperatives are a good way to structure your petition. You might begin, for example, with a brief discussion of what draws you to the school. Next, you might show that you’re negotiating in good faith and from a position of need by letting them know that you’re financing your education on your own. This would be a good place to reveal your calculations of how much law school will cost you and how much you can afford, then walk them through the steps you’ve already taken to bridge the gap. Finally, you might note that another school (preferably a peer school) has offered you a scholarship, and that the total cost of attendance (including merit aid, tuition, and living costs) would be considerably smaller at this other school.
The argument amounts to this: “I love you guys, but I’m strapped, and I could get a comparable education for less.”
If you can’t cite a less expensive offer from a peer school, you may also be able to cite a more affordable offer from a lower-ranked school or an offer without a scholarship from a school of substantially higher ranking.
A strong scholarship reconsideration request charts a course between extremes. On the one hand, you should not be afraid to advocate for yourself. On the other hand, your request is most likely to succeed if it’s modest. Don’t act as if you’re entitled to more money, and don’t give schools ultimatums.
Learn more about scholarship reconsideration requests here.
Deposits and Deadlines
April through June
Admissions committees try to finalize their incoming classes by asking for deposits in the spring. This means pretty much what you think it would mean. They ask you to put down money—typically about $250 but occasionally as much as $1000—to hold your place in the admitted class.
A few schools don’t require deposits. Most ask for either one or two. If a school has two deposits, the first is usually due some time in April and the second in June. If a school has only one deposit, it is usually due in June.
Many schools construe the deposit as an intention to matriculate. Some even refer to it as a “commitment.” You should know, though, that the LSAC’s Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices affords robust protections for students. Among the highlights are that schools must “allow applicants to freely accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a commitment has been made to another school.” In plain English, you can deposit at multiple schools, and such deposits are not binding. They’re not supposed to be binding, at any rate, unless you applied early decision.
But what if a school asks you to refrain from making multiple deposits, or to sign an agreement to attend? You can always request an extension of the deposit deadline. Note also that LSAC no longer sends “commitment overlap reports,” meaning that schools won’t know if you’ve made multiple deposits.
Choosing a School
We’ll offer two basic frameworks to help you pick a school.
Framework 1: Cost-Effectiveness
Your legal education is an investment, so it makes sense to ask yourself what school is likely to give you the best return on that investment.
If you have two offers from comparable schools, this is an easy question. But many applicants find themselves comparing a scholarship from a lower-ranked school against a more expensive offer from a higher-ranked school.
Begin by asking yourself some basic questions. Where do you hope to practice law? What kind of job would you want right after graduation? Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you value the prestige of a JD in its own right? If so, how much?
When you have provisional answers to those questions, take a look at the latest ABA-disclosed employment outcomes for each school on your list.
A degree from a highly ranked school usually makes it easier to get a job in Big Law (especially the first time around), to get a federal clerkship, or to pursue a career in legal academia. But graduating from a T-14 school does not guarantee a job, and graduating from a school of lower ranking doesn’t mean you can’t get a job in Big Law. Your class rank, network, and interviewing skills also matter.
One more thought. Your career vision might change in law school, and a degree from a more highly ranked institution could give you more flexibility later.
Framework 2: Gut Feel
Most people end up going to the school that simply feels right, and we’re here to tell you that this is just fine. At the end of the day, you can’t know which school will yield the best return on your investment over the course of your career, so you might as well go somewhere you’ll enjoy.
But how do you figure out which school is the best fit? Visit if you can. Ask admissions offices to put you in touch with current students or alumni and ask them about their experiences. Ask admissions officers questions too. There is no substitute for posing real questions to real people!
You’ll find more advice in our FAQ.
If you’re looking for guidance on the endgame, you might be interested in our after-the-application services. We offer comprehensive support as well as hourly packages. You can see your options here: https://7sage.com/admissions/after-the-application/.
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