A question we get asked a lot these days is “will there be more waitlist activity this summer than in recent years?” It is, of course, a pertinent question for the vast majority of law school applicants because most applicants will be waitlisted at least somewhere. While there is no definitive answer yet, data from this cycle and historical trends give us at least one theory. And “the new norm” of law admissions leads to another. Let’s take a look at both.
*Theory 1: The dominoes will fall. *
This theory is based on the facts that:
(1) There has been a huge downswing in LSAT scores 165 and above, see: http://blog.spiveyconsulting.com/near-complete-201415-cycle-data/
(2) That only one school in the top 20 last year lost a single point to their LSAT median, and thus that they will not have predicted # 1 above, or planned for it see: https://docs.google.com/
*For example, if HLS, CLS, and NYU take about 100 people off the WL, approximately 75 will withdraw from schools ranked around 7-12. Which means those schools will then take some off their WL, etc etc. it is a classic domino pattern. *
Schools ranked at the top are not used to having to “play it safe” by expecting an LSAT dive, and thus early cycle they at least try to maintain. But with the data we have (again see 1) not every school can do so. Especially when you consider #3, below.
and (3) that recent trimming of class sizes and building fiscal pressures will mean that fewer schools are afforded the ability to cut their class sizes deeper (a majority of the top 50 schools cut their class sizes last year alone and that percentage increases as you add in the schools below top 50)
When you couple 1, 2 and 3 together, you get dominoes falling, starting at the top. In fact, you probably get multiple waves of this throughout the summer. Highly likely more than last year.
Theory 2: Not so fast, my friend!
In this theory, we posit that schools anticipated this fall and admitted larger early numbers of applicants and planned for sliding LSAT scores at the top. The evidence towards this would be that the June LSAT was down – 9.1 %, the Sept down – 8.1%, the internal LSAC reports that all law schools receive showed a steep decline in LSAT scores 165+, and law schools at the top decided to strategically shoot for a point lower early than scramble for 2 LSAT medians lower later. This would seem like a smart play at a macro-strategic level, indeed I have heard deans at top 100 schools speculate this is what is going to happen this cycle, but individually law schools — particular those at the top — don’t think like this. Early cycle they will want to try to at least maintain their median LSAT, and worry about their competition doing the same. They may (like UVa this cycle…or Cornell versus past years) throw at substantial scholarships to do just that — but in the end there are simply too many bodies to fill a seat. And those bodies at the top LSAT scores are much fewer this year than last.
So, as you have probably surmised, I lean towards Theory 1 over Theory 2 as far as what will happen this summer. Once the dam starts cracking at the top, there won’t be enough fingers to plug the holes, and we may see wave after wave of WL admits starting at the top and cascading through almost all schools. This should be a happy summer for many WL applicants, particularly “super-splitters.” Those who stay in touch with their top schools but in a patient, professional way will reap the benefits of these waves of admits.
Some more reading on improving your WL chances via LSAT: