No one wants to feel unwanted. It is hard to put time and effort into a law school application and keep your hopes up for months, only to receive a rejection.
Nevertheless, every applicant who applies to a range of schools is likely to receive at least one rejection. Here is some advice for dealing with a disappointing decision:
— Read the decision carefully.
— Don’t take it personally.
— Don’t jump to conclusions about other pending decisions.
— Consider reapplying.
Read the Decision Carefully
Many applicants mistakenly believe that any response short of an acceptance is a rejection. In truth, law schools give out a range of decisions. Especially this year, with so much uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, law schools are stingy about outright acceptances.
Early decision applicants may have their decisions deferred, placing them in the general admission pool. Even those who did not apply early may receive notice of a delayed decision.
Applicants may be placed on a waitlist, in which case they may send letters of continued interest to stay under consideration. Applicants may even be encouraged to strengthen their application with a higher LSAT score or asked for additional information.
None of those responses are rejections or signs of impending rejection. Review your response letter carefully before writing a law school off.
Don’t Take It Personally
If the decision is a rejection, resist the urge for a postmortem. It is easy to come up with possible explanations or weak points in your law school application, but there is no way to know what could have changed admissions officers’ minds.
Law schools and admissions officers have their own quirks and qualities they seek in applicants. Different admissions officers examining the same application might come to divergent conclusions based on what stood out to them. Try not to interpret a rejection as a personal judgment.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions About Other Pending Decisions
Being rejected by one law school does not imply you will be rejected by others, even if they have similar or higher rankings. Neither law school admissions nor law school ranking is an exact science, and different schools put different weight on various elements of an applicant’s profile.
Furthermore, even if law schools could somehow come to a consensus about the “best” applicants, they have other competing objectives. For one, they are trying to assemble a balanced class. To foster an optimal learning environment and a proper allocation of campus resources, law schools try not to take too many similar applicants. A class full of litigators might leave mediation clinics understaffed — and make class discussions quite quarrelsome. A class full of recent college graduates might lack the real-world insights provided by older applicants.
Perhaps a law school that rejects you is overwhelmed with similar applications, while you stand out in another school’s applicant pool.
If your heart is set on a law school that rejects you, it is not worth protesting or asking for a reevaluation. “Working the refs” could come across as unprofessional. Rather, take the disappointment in stride and consider reapplying the following year.
Generally, law schools don’t like to see applicants reapply with an unchanged application. Find some way to make your application more competitive, such as a better LSAT score, new work experience or relevant volunteer activities.
At the very least, submit an updated resume, essays and perhaps even recommendation letters. It is likely worth writing a new personal statement from scratch on a different topic, but even a newly written essay on a similar topic would be better than making no changes.
Ultimately, receiving a few rejections is a sign that you chose the right target schools. After all, if you are accepted by every law school you apply to, you may ultimately wonder whether you aimed high enough. You need only one acceptance letter to go to law school, so don’t despair until the process plays out.
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