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Please Stand By...


It has been said that sitting on a wait list for entry into a law school has an uncanny ability to feel like one does when flying standby at the airport. You may or may not get on the flight. Trying to pry insiders' information out of the ticketing gate agent is fruitless. And if you wait too long, the available flights headed to neighboring destinations will become booked up as well.

Putting students on standby, or wait listing them, has become a popular trend amongst law schools. When building an entering class, admissions departments are well aware that their admitted students might in the end very well decide to choose another school from which their law career will take flight, leaving a vacant seat.

Our wait list experiences all begin the same; a generic email in our inbox lamenting the difficulty in choosing this year's entering class due to an overwhelmingly high number of qualified applicants, as a result the said applicant has been placed on the wait list. At which point an ensuing jumble of emotions descends upon the applicant--hope, frustration, annoyance, confusion and indecision.

The valid reasoning behind a wait list does little to ease the frustration. Playing a game of limbo with your future is risky. Many in my entering class quickly resolved themselves to attending our school that has admitted them, making silent promises to themselves not to play the game of "what if" further down the road. This path appears especially prevalent among those that have a heavier load of baggage they need to transport on the flight with them--jobs, families, property, etc. The financial and emotional stress of being summoned off the wait list two days before orientation is deemed not worth it and the available flight is taken.

But others, traveling with a lighter load, are hedging bets that a spot on a wait list at a higher ranked school will open up, despite having paid deposits at our school that has admitted them. The prospect of attending a superior school that could open more doors to career success is worth the short-term hassle and standby it is.

The fact of the matter is until a better system is developed, waiting out a wait list really is an individualized choice. We either show up at the airport, fingers crossed that we will be able to board that flight to our dream destination, or we play it safe and hop an available flight to a neighboring town. Myself, I took the flight to the neighboring town and luckily as I await take-off have found myself pleasantly surprised; things are looking pretty good sitting on the runway.


Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 4, 2011 12:23 PM.

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