Law School Waitlist Update May 19, 2021
This comes from Joe Pollak, a consultant at our firm who took the time to look at schools messaging and share his thoughts. Mike added a bit at the bottom.
1. Trickle down effect: In most years, it starts from the top. If Harvard admits someone who would have gone to Penn, then Penn admits someone from Michigan, Michigan from Georgetown, and so on down the line, for example. Of course, it doesn't always happen that students accept the offer from the higher ranked school, but if there is enough waitlist activity at the top, then eventually it trickles down to affect other schools. However, right now we're seeing several schools in the middle of the T14 who are reportedly full and possibly overenrolled. If those schools can absorb losing students without replacing them, then it disrupts the trickle. To overcome that, you would hope to see more than one school at the top exerting pressure down the rankings.
2. One out, one in? One strategy for schools is to use the waitlist to admit people to shore up their medians. So if their GPA median is weak, then they would seek to admit additional high GPA candidates, possibly without much regard to those candidates' LSAT scores. Another strategy is to replace like with like. So, if a school loses a candidate who would have contributed to a category of diversity statistics or has a high LSAT score, then perhaps they seek a new candidate who would contribute similarly. Again, depending on the school, they might make concessions on what they are looking for in terms of median numbers. Finally, if a school loses a candidate, they may not worry about a 1 to 1 replacement and instead just choose the most interesting candidate or best available or possibly even the most likely to accept an offer.
With the feast on high LSAT scores this cycle, it seems like the T14 schools largely seem content with their LSAT medians. I think that we may see more of the "replace like with like" and "best available" strategies this cycle. That's sort of good news. It means that basically anyone can have a chance. But it's also sort of bad news for many candidates who could have found themselves a big fish in a shrinking pond of high LSAT or high GPA WL candidates in a different scenario.
3. Second deposits / double deposits - For schools with second deposit deadlines, that timing is often when candidates drop out. If they don't intend to attend, then they don't want to pay any more money. Also if a candidate has deposited at two schools, perhaps because they couldn't make up their mind at the deadline or perhaps because they recently were admitted from the waitlist to one of those schools, then a second deposit deadline could prompt them to finalize a decision.
4. Student visas - if you need a student visa to attend law school, then your window of opportunity is beginning to close. The international office at each university will have its own internal deadline after which they won't want admissions offices to admit new students who need visas. ( If you are an international candidate but don't need a visa or have the opportunity to transfer an I-20, or something. anything, that will make the process simpler, then mention that loud and clear in your next communication with schools. Also, don't hold back thinking that you may have a chance later in the summer. Your time to make something happen is right now through the middle or end of June.
Predictions: Note this is our best guess only, please don't take any of the below as absolutes.
Yale - full for now
Harvard - Actively interviewing. We've seen high LSAT splitters and high GPA reverse splitters. Working theory is that they are looking for interesting applicants rather than numbers.
Stanford - usually does not make offers until after Harvard is finished, so keep an eye on early June as a possibility.
Columbia - full for now, possibly after June 1.
Chicago - full for now
NYU - full for now
Penn - full for now
UVA - Some movement. Possibly looking for high GPA.
Berkeley - Full for now, next review after June 1 second commitment deadline. 1st quartile could have a chance.
Michigan - Full for now. We assume the next opportunity will be if/when someone leaves the class for Harvard or around Michigan's second deposit deadline on June 15.
Duke - Full for now
Cornell - Making offers this week. May 15 second deposit just passed.
Northwestern - No news.
Georgetown - Has made WL admits. June 1 second deposit.
UCLA - Full for now
Vanderbilt - No news
USC - Full for now
Texas - Feelers within the past week, but unclear about timing for making offers.
Wash U - Full at the deposit deadline; no further news.
Mike Spivey note: If a large share of applicants this cycle reapply, it very well may come from the schools in the 11-20 zone. In that scenario, if again a large number were to (and we are not recommending one way or the other because that is incredibly individual for each decision) you would see an increase in WL admits likely more in this group of schools than others.