Champagne Problems: "I got accepted at one school and waitlisted at my top choice--what should I do?"

    For most, the whirlwind of the law school application process is over, the waiting has ended, and decisions have arrived. With bated breath, you open those emails, answers those phone calls, or rip open that envelope--are you in? Are you out? Are you waitlisted?

    Or are you in that most beneficial of positions: Accepted at one school, and waitlisted at your top choice?

    It's a great place to be in: You know you've got a soft landing spot for the fall, but you may have an even swankier option available. However, there is some doubt: Can you accept a seat at one school, while holding out hope for something better? Can you game the system that way? Is it allowed?

    The answer is yes. Yes. And yes.

    It's fairly simple, actually:

    1. Send your seat deposit to the school that accepted you. After all, that school is a sure thing--and the waitlist school is not. Sending your deposit in will hold your seat for you, but it will not bind you to the school (provided you didn't apply via any binding Early Decision program). You need to have a place to land in the fall, so send in your deposit and make sure a seat is waiting for you no matter what.
    2. Let the waitlist school know that you're definitely interested in staying on that waiting list. Here's what you need to do.
    3. Hold on tight.

    If the waitlist school ends up formally accepting you and you decide you want to go, then let your original school know that you are no longer interested in your seat, and then send in your deposit to the new school (previously your waitlist school). Simple as that. A few things to note:

    1. You will lose your deposit at the first school (the school you're leaving to attend the waistlist school instead).
    2. Make sure you let the first school know that you will not be attending. This lets them give your seat to someone else (it's a nice way to pay it forward, too).
    3. If you do this multiple times (for example, you get accepted at School A, then get off the waitlist at School B and decide to go there instead, then get off the waitlist at School C and decide to go there instead) it's okay. Just make sure you understand that you'll lose your deposit every time you make a switch, you'll have to issue a new deposit to the new school, and that you should definitely make sure to tell each school that you're leaving so that they know a seat has opened up.

    Some will ask: Is this ethical? Can I really do this? Think of it this way: Most law schools hedge their bets like this every year. They accept more students than they have space to accommodate because they know a lot of them will end up not accepting their offer. You're doing the same thing--hedging your bets--except you're doing it with multiple schools. Schools know students do this. The only time it could backfire on you is if you were admitted via a binding program--then you can't back out and decide to go elsewhere. You also cannot accept seats at multiple schools at once.

    It's a nice spot to be in--more than one school wants you. Enjoy your popularity, pick your school, and get ready for law school in the fall!


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