How Early Is Too Early for a LOCI?

Recently I applied Early Decision to my top choice school and was placed on the waitlist.  I have good softs, however both my UGPA and LSAT are at the school's 25%.  This is my absolute first choice law school, and I mentioned this fact in my personal statement.  I have a plan of attack for positioning myself to try to get off the waitlist, which includes taking a tour and writing a LOCI based on that tour, as well as updating them on a pending work promotion, and I may take the February LSAT in order to try to boost my numbers.  My question is with it only being early December, should I send a LOCI this early or should I wait until late February/early March to send a letter in which I can include more details and therefore sound more compelling?  In sum, how early is too early to write a LOCI?  I want to let them know that I am still very interested, but I do not want to sound hollow.

You're already waitlisted? That's interesting, because many Early Decision (ED) schools would just have rolled you over into the Regular Decision pool and wouldn't start putting people on an official waitlist until sometime in the spring. It's an interesting development that schools are already starting waitlists. (Any other applicants in that situation? Please share in the comments.)

Here's the Meta-Rule that should govern any communication an applicant has with any school: Check if they've given you specific instructions, and if so, follow those. What did your waitlist letter say?

Some schools expressly invite additional communications and materials, in which case it's fine to submit a LOCI (letter of continued interest). Other schools will expressly tell waitlisted applicants not to send in more information, and not to bug them. If any of your schools tells you that, back off. Let them make the next move, or they'll think you're a pest. And still other schools invite updates, but only after a certain date. Those are all things you should confirm in your waitlist instructions.

If your ED-turned-waitlist-school does invite a LOCI, ask yourself what purpose you want it to serve. Is it meant to show them that they are your first choice? You've already told them that in your essay, and since talk can be cheap, you proved it by applying binding early decision. You don't risk sounding hollow (applying binding ED is the opposite of a hollow promise), but you do run the risk of sounding repetitive.

Most people who apply to a school binding Early Decision don't all of a sudden stop wanting to go there if they get waitlisted. On the other hand, since your ED school released you from the binding commitment once they rolled you onto a waitlist, you are essentially a free agent now. It might have some value to the school to know that even though you're no longer bound to accept, you would still do so. You would effectively be binding yourself beyond the Early Decision commitment. If that's a promise you're happy to continue making, go ahead and do so, no need to wait until March.

Also note that you have a duty to update all your pending applications, so if you have changed jobs, you need to update schools with that information. If you've been promoted -- or demoted, or fired -- you need to update. If you have a new grade or set of grades, you need to update. If you have a new LSAT score, they'll find out anyway once LSAC processes and sends off your updated LSAT Report, so that's not something you need to take affirmative steps to update schools about.

What kinds of updates aren't helpful? Things like "pending" or "expected" work promotions. Don't toot your own horn until the news you want to share is official. Schools typically don't release/ding people from a waitllist until much later in the season (typically in the summer), so you'll likely have plenty of opportunities to send them official updates as they happen in real time.

Any disagreement out there? Stories to share?

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).