Being admitted off the WL is actually pretty simple. There are three factors that schools consider.
1. What the desired class versus the current deposited class looks like at your target school
This can be projected before a seat deposit deadline based on what their admits, deposited students, and some withdraws look like, but it usually gets clearer after the first seat deposit. Maybe 15 days after the first deposit deadline you start seeing the first real waves of movement off the WL. But, keep in mind the WL activity lasts all freaking summer. The later you stay in the game, the better your chances. Some things they will be looking at for class makeup:
- LSAT/GPA (but you don’t have to kill both. Schools take large numbers of people off the WL and very few have both GPA and LSAT that the school wants, or you wouldn’t have been WL’d!)
- Male/Female ratio
- Work experience (also see #3)
- Geographic and undergraduate college representation (not hugely important to many schools… although if you are from North Dakota, you are in a good way!)
2. Yield. No school wants to admit someone off the WL who won’t accept the offer
This has become vastly important for someone on the WL. Indeed, it may be THE most important thing. The cool thing is you have so much control over this. A visit would be ideal at most schools, but not everyone can do this. The schools get that — so call and introduce yourself to an admissions officer. Just have a question in mind and you should get right through. Horrible question example: “What are my chances of being admitted off of the WL?” Good question idea: “I really want to go to your school, is there anything I should be doing to better my chances?” From this, you will get the blueprint of success and start a relationship with a decision maker. As I write this, I want to admit someone. Stay in touch, just mix it up (call one month, email the next).
3. How much they like you
An admissions officer would probably call this “fit,” but it really is more along the lines of “do I like the applicant?” Not as in, "can I have a beer with them,” but more along the lines of are they going to be likable to employers, faculty, etc. etc. People like likable people. This may be even more true in admissions than many places because admissions officers themselves are hired for their likability (we know they aren’t all and there are nightmare stories out there, but in general yes). Can you influence them and increase your likability? Of course. Polish your LOCI to the 9th degree – you generally only get one. Send another LOR. Have an alum call on your behalf. Do the phone call mentioned above. Send UPBEAT/POSITIVE emails and feel free to end them with an exclamation point! (A research study I saw claimed that associates who ended email upward with exclamation points were more apt to make it to partner!) Just don’t do so three sentences in a row! No joke, go read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Make Friends and Influence People” and put it to action.
And one tip on what not to do: Do not send 5 large pizzas to an office of 8 people. I hate wasting pizza. Seriously, no gifts of any kind.
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