You’ve narrowed down your list of target schools and have begun preparing your application. You’ve got the LSAT coming up and have lined up your recommendations. So do you think you’ve got what it takes to get in? Or will you end up on the bubble?
A ‘bubble’ applicant is someone who is on the cusp of being either admitted or denied. They are either not quite strong enough to be admitted, or they’re just strong enough to be waitlisted, rather than denied. The goal of a bubble applicant is to be on the good side of the bubble: being admitted if your application is not the strongest, or getting on the waitlist instead of being denied straight away if your profile is below their standards.
So what exactly is the profile of a bubble applicant? There are three solid indicators. If your LSAT/GPA is in the middle range of the school you’re applying to and those scores aren’t comfortably above the median, that’s a good indicator. Also, ‘mixed’ scores – such as a high LSAT with a low GPA, or vice versa – is also a ‘bubble flag.’ Finally, if your ‘soft’ application materials such as your essay, resume and recommendations are not particularly strong, then chances are good you’ll end up on the bubble with the admissions committees.
They don’t occur with any obvious frequency in regards to what round you’re in. It mainly depends on those indicators and how they stack up against the current applicant pool. However, later in the cycle, it does get tougher to stay in the game and not get denied straight away.
There are some things an applicant can do to avoid being on the bubble and more firmly in the realm of consideration. You need to show the extra effort, personality, enthusiasm and interest in the school you’re trying for. If your numbers are only average for the school, then you have to demonstrate that you’re going to be the nicest, happiest, most involved student they have in the class. Communicating that an applicant is especially interested in that particular school is key. Try to let them know that you are just dying to go there, and that you would definitely accept if they admit you.
Applicants can avoid the bubble by making sure their application is as comprehensive as can be, and tailored to the school. Make sure your application is as strong as possible for the particular school you’re applying to. Applications are becoming more and more customized, so schools are seeing more school-specific essays, recommendation letters and additional materials that help the committees consider every aspect of the application in the light most favorable to the applicant, and put your application over the top.
The larger the applicant pool, the greater amount of bubble candidates. Schools with large and competitive pools will have a larger number of ‘maybe’ students. Schools like Harvard and Yale – who have rigorous standards and thousands of very strong applicants – can be very choosy to the point that any flaw in an application can put you in the ‘bubble’ category.
And if you find yourself on the bubble by being put on ‘Hold’ or ‘Waitlist’ status? It’s important to continue to show interest and submit whatever you can to address the weaknesses in your application. Additional essays, recommendation letters, updated resumes or transcripts – whatever you can do to politely convince them you’re a great fit can increase your chances of getting off the bubble – and being admitted.