Bad Idea Jeans: Don't Be a Waitlist Freakshow

April 27, 2009

Some of you may remember the new B.I.J. feature I introduced a couple of months ago. We'll, it's time for a new lesson, as I know many of you are on the wait list (either at Yale or elsewhere, some of this info may still be useful to you). Before we begin, I'd like you to take a brief quiz. Please watch the following clip:

Now, choose one response that best describes your reaction:

a) I would rather be waterboarded than watch that again.

b) Give the guy a break, everyone does that now and then.

c) Why call when you can show up in person?

If you answered (a), you can probably skim the rest of this post. If you answered (b), you should read this post carefully, as you may be at risk for B.I.J. For anyone who answered (c) and is currently on the Yale wait list, please send an email to with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line. It will be extremely helpful to me -- thanks!

So look. I get it. This is a very stressful time, and you really want to come to Yale, and you want to let us know that. But here's the deal: there is a fine line between enthusiasm and...stalker. At this critical juncture, it is important to keep the OCD in check, at least until you get your foot in the door. Here are some suggestions to help you do that:

1. Status Checks. I think you know my feelings on status checks. While it may appear at first glance that such a check would be more applicable to a wait list than for general admission, it isn't -- at least not at Yale. Your status is that you are waitlisted. We do not rank our wait list, so there's not much more to report to you than that. When I get an opening, I cull through the people we have on our wait list and select someone who I think will best complete the class as it is comprised at that moment. And no, that doesn't not mean I try to fill the spot with someone with the exact same "profile" -- that's actually not really possible to do since to get on our wait list you have to be pretty accomplished and interesting and therefore somewhat different than everyone else. Anyway, despite what the guidebooks tell you, please don't call to ask about your status. If we get an opening, and we think you'd be a great addition to the class, we'll call you.

2. LOCIs. These are actually useful. Sort of. When I get an opening in the class, I do want to fill it as soon as possible. Therefore, it's helpful to have something in the file that says, "Yale is my first choice and I will definitely come if admitted." Unfortunately, people have been known to lie on this front so I don't place a ton of weight on such letters, but the fact that you made an effort to say something does offer a feather on the scale in your favor. However, if I open the file to find several letters, odes to Yale, journal entries, head shots, etc. then you are venturing way too far into Mikeyland and really not doing yourself a favor. One. LOCI. Punto.

3. Letters of Recommendation. These are generally not as useful and won't make much of a difference in whether you are admitted off the wait list. I say this because usually the stream of LORs we get from wait list people tend to come from employers, high-ranking politicians, and other people who are probably very nice individuals but who do not carry a whole lot of weight in our admissions process. As I've mentioned before, the type of recommendations that we really pay attention to are academic references. To that end, if there is a professor whom you've blown away with your brilliance in the last couple of months (like s/he supervised a senior thesis that just won a departmental award, for instance), by all means have him or her write to us. But please do not clutter your file with a high volume of low-impact pieces of paper. Remember, what you choose to add to your file is a reflection of your judgment, and we do not want to admit people with poor judgment.

4. Supplemental Materials. Please don't. If I want to read your thesis, I will ask for it. (I have done this exactly once in my entire time as Admissions Dean -- to someone who was already admitted. He had done some mathematical modeling of traffic flow through the Holland Tunnel and, having spent a good portion of my waking hours while living in NYC stuck in that tunnel, I was curious. But that's it.) Other things -- work writing samples, video clips, news articles -- honestly, I just don't have the time. If there is a specific accomplishment about which you'd like us to know, you can send us a short -- short! -- statement indicating what it is, with a link or a polite offer to provide more information by request. Ideally, you would combine any such updates into your LOCI (see #2) so that you provide a professional, comprehensive, and concise update to your file which reiterates your interest.

5. Visits. In the event that you are offered a spot on the wait list, you need to be prepared to give an answer ASAP (within anywhere from 24-72 hours, depending on how close we are to registration day). This is not the time that we are going to be able to court you, provide travel subsidies to fly out, connect you with students and professors, etc. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, we are trying to fill the class. Every extra day/hour/minute you take to make your decision is time that the person who is "on deck" behind you is spending making plans to enroll elsewhere (including placing deposits on an apartment, buying books, etc.). Just as you want to be able to change your plans as soon as possible, so do the others waiting with you -- please be considerate. Second, once classes are over next week, our students and professors start leaving (a lot of exams happen remotely). We just don't have people around to connect you with.

Basically, if seeing Yale in person, sitting in on classes, and talking with students will be critical to your decision to accept an offer from the wait list, the time to do these things is NOW. The only unknown piece of information (from our end) that should stand in the way of your accepting an offer from the wait list is your financial aid package, which we will try to get to you as soon as practicable after you are admitted. By keeping your name on the wait list, we assume that you have considered all the other factors and are ready to make a decision on very short notice.

6. Deferrals. We don't offer them. For anything. Punto. Again, we are trying to fill a spot for this fall. Even if you get offered a Rhodes or Marshall or some other amazing opportunity, your only choice is to turn down the other opportunity or withdraw and reapply. My advice to you, if you do get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will prevent you from enrolling this fall, is to take it -- you can always reapply, and your application will be richer for your experience. (If you do turn down a Rhodes or Marshall to stay on the wait list, please send an email to with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line -- thanks!)

Oh, and one more thing. We really can't send individual confirmations for every piece of mail we receive, email or otherwise. We're not Amazon -- we're the Yale Admissions Office, with literally two people handling thousands of files. If you really need confirmation, I would recommend that you use the U.S. Postal system (the most reliable in the world) and get something called "Delivery Confirmation" for about 50 cents. If the online tracker tells you that it arrived at the Law School, then it will make its way to our office and your file. I promise.

-- Asha


Sarah said:


This blog is hilarious! Thanks for the great tips! It's good to see what's goes on in the admissions committees heads.

April 29, 2009 1:25 AM

Segsta said:

LOL this blog makes me wish I had applied to Yale. You are hilarious! :)

April 29, 2009 1:28 AM

Lindsey said:

What are your thoughts on retaking the LSAT in June in hopes of gaining a few more points? Could it help in gaining admission off of the waitlist?

Thank you for the advice and transparency in the Yale Law admissions process.

203 responds: Given that waitlist files aren't sent to the faculty for another round of reviews, retaking the LSAT really wouldn't help your chances.

April 30, 2009 10:28 AM

Jason said:

Reading this blog continues to ease the frustrations of the application process - thanks Asha!

May 3, 2009 2:48 PM

GarykPatton said:

I have been looking looking around for this kind of information. Will you post some more in future? I'll be grateful if you will.

June 16, 2009 3:11 AM

Joe said:

This blog is hilarious, and thanks for the great video link. Hats off to the admissions office for rejecting the tired, up-tight approach to applicant communications. If I wasn't going for an M.B.yAy, I'd apply here.

June 29, 2009 6:45 AM

free ipad said:

It is my dearest wish to get into yales now. You people really know how to have fun :)

August 4, 2010 8:01 AM

HT said:

After reading this, I can't help but wonder how many people actually sent in "My answer to the quiz is (c)" titles...

September 30, 2010 7:07 PM