This blog comes from our consultant Joe Pollak. You can read his full bio at the end of this post.
How to Ask for a Law School Seat Deposit Extension
Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to law school! You are going to become a lawyer. But wait a minute, what about all those other schools? You have not heard from them yet? And yikes, that deadline is getting close! What are you going to do?
Dear Spivey Law Admissions Office,
I am writing to request an extension for my seat deposit deadline. I remain very interested in Spivey Law, but I was admitted to Buttenbaum Law on Friday. As I am sure you understand, choosing a law school is a big decision, and as much as I like Spivey Law, I feel that I should at least visit Buttenbaum Law’s campus before finalizing my decision. My first opportunity to visit will be on the weekend of May 6-7, so I would sincerely appreciate your extending my Spivey Law deadline until May 10. Please let me know if this is possible.
With kind regard,
Horatio T. Applicant
This is the cycle of slow admissions decisions. For a variety of reasons, a greater than usual number of law schools have adopted an admissions strategy that seems like it is going to involve waiting until the last minute to communicate decisions. To some degree, every law school admissions cycle involves waiting; eight to twelve weeks from applying to receiving a decision is typical for many schools. However, in this cycle, many applicants are waiting far longer for their initial decisions.
This phenomenon is about to create a problem, because every law school has a commitment deadline between April 1 and May 1, and those dates are almost upon us. So, what should you do if you need to give Spivey Law School and Culinary Institute an answer but Buttenbaum School of Law and Dog Training still has not told you whether you are admitted, waitlisted, or denied?
From the applicant’s perspective, the simplest solution is for Spivey Law to give you another week or two before requiring you to commit. Unfortunately, law school admissions offices do not like to extend deadlines. It messes up their reporting timing and makes it difficult to evaluate what is going on with their entering class. Spivey Law would like to say, “Not our problem,” when you tell them that Buttenbaum Law is moving slowly. And, in a typical application cycle, while schools might extend a deposit deadline on a case-by-case basis, they are very likely to decline the majority of these requests.
Yet, might this year be different? Some admissions offices are always slow, but we can tell from our data analysis that a greater than normal number of law schools are moving slowly this cycle. So, you might as well ask, but you are going to need to be persuasive.
I’m going to break down your request into three components.
Timing: If you ask for an extension four weeks before the deposit deadline, the admissions office will just tell you to see what happens in those weeks and decline your request. I wouldn’t leave it until the day of the deadline, either, but somewhere in between.
Specificity: When litigators submit motion briefs to a court, they attach a model order in many situations. Hypothetically, if the judge completely agreed with the argument, the judge could sign the order. Most of the time, the judge (or the clerk) will draft their own order, but specifically laying out exactly what the litigator wants in the model order has persuasive power.
In your case, you do not need a model order, but you should ask for a specific extension. Like a week. Or until a certain date, like May 10. If you fail to ask for a specific extension, you leave it up to the admissions office to guess, and while they may guess right and give you enough time, there’s no guarantee. Of course, you could ask for a week, and the admissions office might counter-offer three days. Still, even if you do not get precisely what you are asking for, you will likely get closer to what you want than with a non-specific request.
Tell them why: You are asking for an exception from their standard policies, so justify your request. What will you do with that extra time if they grant it? (Something worthwhile, I hope.) This one is up to you. The more individualized your reason, the better. When I was on the receiving end of these requests in the admissions office, I would have assumed by default that the applicant was procrastinating from making a decision, and procrastination would not have been a persuasive reason to grant an exception.
Not all law schools will grant you a deposit deadline extension, but in most cases, as long as you remain polite, professional, and respectful, it can't hurt to ask. Best of luck!
Joe Pollak is a former admissions officer for the University of Michigan Law School, where he negotiated scholarships, counseled students on their law school aspirations, ran the waitlist, supervised application processing, and managed applicants’ campus visits, among other responsibilities. Joe received his B.A. and J.D., both with honors, from the George Washington University. During law school, he worked as a fellow in the writing center and was a member of the George Washington International Law Review where he evaluated articles for publication. At other points in his career, he was an associate attorney with a large law firm in Washington, DC, nonprofit executive director, summer camp director, and editor for job seekers’ cover letters and résumés. In his free time, he is a fair-weather hiker, so-so bread baker, and novice bike-camper. Joe lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and two sons.