How to Handle a Law School Rejection Letter

No one wants to feel unwanted. It can feel crushing to put time and effort into a law school application and keep your hopes up for months, only to be denied admission.

Other factors can make this news even more emotionally taxing. You may learn of other accepted applicants among your peers or read about them on online forums. Law schools are making decisions slower than they used to, so a rejection may arrive after several months of tense waiting.

Nevertheless, rejection is inevitable in the law school admissions process. Every applicant who applies to a range of schools is likely to receive at least one rejection, often many more. After all, if you aim high, you can’t expect to hit a bullseye every time!

Here’s 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.

Early decision applicants may have their decisions put on hold, placing them in the general applicant pool for evaluation later in the cycle. Even those who did not apply early may receive notice of a delayed decision.

[Related:Should You Update Law Schools After Applying?]

Applicants may be placed on a waitlist, in which case they may send letters of continued interest to stay under consideration. Many applicants are accepted from waitlists every cycle. Waitlisted applicants may be encouraged to strengthen their application with a higher LSAT score or asked for updates or an explanation of their interest in a school.

It is even possible that a law school may offer deferred admission, for the following cycle, if they don’t have a spot currently available.

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 your admission is denied, resist the urge for a postmortem. It is easy to come up with possible explanations or weak points in your law school application or to compare yourself to others, 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.

[READ: 7 Deciding Factors in Law School Admissions]

Furthermore, law schools have other competing objectives besides finding the “best” applicants. For one, they are trying to assemble a balanced class. To improve the learning environment for everyone, law schools try not to take too many similar applicants.

A class full of litigators would not only make class discussions insufferably quarrelsome, it would leave transactional or mediation clinics understaffed. 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.

Or perhaps admissions officers believe your chances of attendance are low because of the school’s geography or values. Accepting students who choose not to attend lowers a school’s yield rate.

Consider Reapplying

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.

[READ: How to Decide Whether to Wait to Reapply to Law School.]

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. Either write a new personal statement from scratch or find a fresh angle on the same topic. Consider asking a trusted mentor, adviser or admissions consultant for areas of improvement in your past application materials.

Ultimately, receiving a few rejections is a sign that you chose the right target schools. Getting into every law school you applied to would leave you wondering if you had enough reach schools.

You need only one acceptance letter to open the door to law school, so don’t despair until the process plays out fully.

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How to Handle a Law School Rejection Letter originally appeared on

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