Here’s a quick answer to a reader question that I think a few people might be wondering about themselves. She asks:
I’m currently waitlisted at a couple law schools in the top 25. Is it totally unheard of to get off the waitlist with an offer of some scholarship money? I would really like to attend these schools location-wise, but I already have a decent money offer from my home state’s public university. I think based on what I’ve heard that would be tough to justify making the move unless I got some kind of money offer.
Good question. While it used to be very rare to get an offer of merit scholarship money coming off the waitlist, I’ve seen more examples of it happening in recent years. It makes sense: the law school application process is in a new era since fewer people are applying now, and schools might not quite know how to handle it perfectly yet. Their estimates about who they can get to come when they admit students in earlier rounds might be way off, and then they have to pull more people from the waitlist than they anticipated. This could result in using scholarship offers to attract a lot of students off the waitlist.
When I look at recent self-reported admissions data, I see a lot of examples of people accepted off waitlists with scholarship offers, more than I used to see. It’s still somewhat unlikely, but it does happen. Bear in mind that we are talking about merit scholarships here. Need-based aid, if your target school offers it and there is money available, will be given if you qualify regardless of whether you are admitted in the normal admissions window or via the waitlist.
You might still be wondering why schools would offer merit aid to those on the waitlist. After all, if you are still on their waitlist, presumably you want to come and will accept if given an offer, right? Maybe, but I think that’s less true nowadays when law students are so concerned about cost. Students may hang around on the waitlist to keep their options open without necessarily having a firm decision in place to go to that school, and that’s okay. You are allowed to stay on waitlists even if you have already put down a seat deposit elsewhere. If schools want a high yield (a good ratio of offers accepted to offers handed out), it can be in their interest to offer you money later, even if they waitlisted you at first, to make sure you come.
Particularly at schools in the bottom end of the top 25 such as Vanderbilt and WUSTL, I’ve seen this happening a lot. If they look at the waitlist and they want you to come, they often offer money. These schools know they are trying to attract students that might have a lot of decent options, such as admission to a lower T14 or two, so again it’s makes sense that they would occasionally offer money to students on the waitlist.
It might also be the case that smart students are negotiating for a scholarship after receiving their acceptance off the waitlist. This is definitely an avenue that you should pursue when and if you are accepted.
If you get in, there is no need to be shy. At that point, tell the school the situation you are in and that money is a factor for you. They may be willing to match or approximate offers you have at schools a little lower down the rankings ladder. If the thought of negotiating terrifies you, I might suggest hiring an admissions consultant to help with the process.
Though this doesn’t sound like your situation necessarily, I think there is one more thing I should mention: yield protect. Sometimes a school waitlists you even when your numbers are very strong for the school. They do this because they think it’s likely you’ll go to some other school. If you come back and tell them that you are indeed very interested in coming to their school, that can and does frequently result in a big scholarship offer when they pull you off the waitlist.
Boosting Your LSAT
If you improve your LSAT score in June, all bets are off. Even if they did waitlist you originally, you are now a whole new candidate. They may realize that they now need to offer you a large scholarship to have a chance at getting you to come. That presents another possible way of getting in off the waitlist with a scholarship.
In short, it’s definitely possible to get in off a waitlist AND receive merit aid. To our readers: don’t withdraw from a waitlist at a school you otherwise want to go to just because you think that money isn’t a possibility.