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by Anna Ivey | March 10, 2009

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Anna Ivey is a private admissions counselor who works with people applying to the top business schools and law schools, as well as the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions: Straight Advice on Essays, Resumes, Interviews and More. If you have a question for Anna Ivey, send her an e-mail.

Formerly the Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, she has also practiced corporate and entertainment law in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Columbia and her JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of The University of Chicago Law Review. To learn more about her admissions counseling, visit annaivey.com.

Question: Is it OK to put down deposits at multiple schools? I'm having trouble deciding where to accept.

Unless you have been accepted through a binding Early Decision program, the official position is that multiple deposits are acceptable, and that putting down a deposit at a school does not obligate you to attend. However, admissions officers discourage the practice, because they have to keep their waitlisted applicants in limbo until they can get a final head count. By the time deposits are due, admitted applicants should have all the information they need to make their decisions, and buying themselves extra time (literally - multiple deposits aren't exactly cheap) rarely gives them better or more information than they had the day before deposits were due. What new information do you think you'll learn over the summer? Most schools aren't in session then, and faculty and students are typically dispersed until classes start again. An exception would be if you're still waiting to hear about financial aid, for example; that would be a good reason to reserve more than one spot. Or perhaps there's an illness in the family that could take a turn for the worse, and you might end up needing to stay close to home. In my experience, though, people put down multiple deposits because it's too tempting to procrastinate. Do you think your decision will be easier two months from now? Four months from now? Probably not. Applicants complain bitterly about being stuck on waitlists, and they are often at the mercy of the procrastinators (see my related article The Waiting Game). If you're a good "admissions citizen," do your civic duty and make up your mind when deposits are due. Your waitlisted peers will thank you.

On a related note, I am often asked "how binding" Early Decision really is. Unless you're too dumb to be heading off to law school, you knew full well that you were committing yourself when you applied Early Decision. You already know the answer: you voluntarily bound yourself, so of course it's binding. What's really behind that question is whether you can get away with it, and that's just a horrible way to start your career as a lawyer. Will your cheating ways necessarily come back to bite you? Maybe, maybe not. Why risk it?

And finally, on an unrelated but season-appropriate note, let me pass along some feedback from law school alumni who are graciously volunteering their time and effort to share their experiences and perspectives with admitted applicants. Law schools go to considerable lengths to arrange for these contacts to take place. They have alums call admitted students and sometimes even host dinners for them at fancy restaurants. What I'm hearing from a number of alums is disappointment and head-scratching that after spending, say, an hour on the phone with an applicant or taking a bunch of them out to dinner, they don't receive so much as a thank-you note afterwards. Sure, the alums volunteer for this, and nowhere in your application were you asked to demonstrate that you have manners or common sense. However, if you blow off these alums, you are passing up a great opportunity to start cultivating your future professional network. Even if you end up deciding not to attend that alum's school, there's so much upside to be gained from staying in touch and perhaps even building the foundation for a successful career mentorship. And who knows, you might end up in the hot seat when you're sitting across from her in a job interview or signing the seating chart in her classroom. (Yes, some of the alums making those calls are law school professors.) Don't be short-sighted - take two minutes to dash off an email and at least stay in that person's good graces. At best, you'll have forged a useful and productive relationship.

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