If you are considering taking the LSAT in December, the great news is that there has never been a better time than now. In the past, taking the December LSAT was considered late in the game, and there was no question that your prospects were not as good as they would have been if you got your applications in sooner. However, for the 2013-2014 admissions cycle the game has changed considerably.
In the past few years the number of applicants to law school has fallen drastically. This year marks year 3 of a double digit percentage drop in the number of students applying to law school. That means there are plenty of seats open when schools consider applications for December LSAT takers. I wrote about this in some detail in our post on rolling admissions, but the general idea is that an applicant with good numbers is likely to suffer almost no handicap by applying in December this year.
December is a fine time to take the LSAT. Depending on where you live, it’s often cold and rainy in late fall/early winter, so you won’t mind being indoors studying as much as you might for the June or the October LSAT. That said, December LSAT takers don’t quite have the luxury afforded June or even October takers of being able to complete the LSAT and then worry about applications later on.
The December LSAT is administered on Saturday, December 7th this year (2013). Here we give you a timeline to make it easy to get those apps out the door as soon as you get your score, which will put you in the best shape to get into your dream law school. Bookmark this timeline and refer back to it as needed. We have a lot of resources in here that will help you along the way, so you’ll be glad to have one place to find it all later on.
Timeline For December LSAT Takers:
- Absorb as much information as you can about law school in general. The decision to pursue law school is serious business. Don’t go just because it’s a default option or because your parents pressure you to (unless they are paying for it, in which case you can let them pressure you a little). First, read this post which discusses how hard law school is likely to be. Note I wrote this from my perspective as a UChicago Law student. U Chicago is a notoriously rigorous place, but the piece will give you a good idea of what 1L entails).
- Next, give yourself an idea how much work LSAT prep is going to entail. Take a look at our recommended study schedule to see what it takes. Also check out Josh’s advice on how he got a 177 on the LSAT. Most people do not put in the work needed to max out their score. You should not get yourself mixed up with this crowd. Take the LSAT very seriously, as it is the most important part of your application to law school.
- If you have done your homework and still think you want to give law school a shot, sign up for the December LSAT. Once you sign up, it feels really real: you are now locked and loaded. Remember, one of the disadvantages of the December LSAT is that you can’t bail as easily and take it at a later date. The February LSAT isn’t much of an option, so it might be a little easier to stay motivated to get it right now. This is good for some people, but may stress out others. Remember that you won’t die if you don’t take the LSAT this year. It’s looking very likely that law schools will still be open next year if you have to apply then.
- Also, sign up for CAS, LSAC’s data assembly service. This is how you will submit your transcript and letters of recommendation to schools.
- Request transcripts from each undergrad and grad school you attended. It’s not hard so get it out of the way now. Wires get crossed in the mail all all the time, so you don’t want to be frantically calling schools later when you should be passing in your applications.
- Start talking with professors or bosses who can write your recommendations. Anyone who you think liked you will probably fit the bill. Letters of recommendation are best if they are from someone who knows you well rather than from some famous judge your father knows from college. The good old boy days are largely over and thankfully, nepotism is on the decline. Act accordingly.
- Decide whether to self-study or take a course. If you plan on taking an LSAT prep course, sign up now. Sometimes they fill up. I’m not paid to say this so just trust me and everyone else in the LSAT prep business: do not take a class with Princeton Review or Kaplan. From talking to people, I think the online courses are the wave of the future. Tutoring is always another good option if you can afford it. Make sure you get in touch with a tutor now if you might do this, because they may not be able to accommodate you last minute. With all that said, I am a huge fan of self-study. LSAT courses are a good way to pre-commit to studying but there is absolutely nothing secret about the LSAT that can’t be learned from a book. Courses tend to help lower scorers see better results, but in my experience the high-scorers tend to set a rigorous schedule of self-study and stick with it. Click here to see what I did and what prep materials I used. Not all prep materials are created equal. Make sure you are getting the right stuff.
If you want to prep for more than 3 months, you will do best if you use some extra material. While most people read the Powerscore Bibles during their prep, they often overlook the workbooks that go with them. These books take you through many more real LSAT problems using Powerscore techniques, so you can solidify your skills.
Do them before you start drilling full preptests to make sure you have the techniques down.
- Start drafting your personal statement. Advice about how to craft a truly stellar personal statement could fill a book. That’s why I’m going to recommend that you buy one: Get The Law School Admission Game by Ann Levine. This was my primary reference source when I successfully applied to several of the T6 law schools. It has advice on just about every aspect of your law school applications, so consider it $14.38 well spent. The new edition has more specific advice on applying now with law school applications down, so definitely get this book before you start working on your applications.
- Do your law school resume. I can’t think of anything I like less in the world than making a resume but it has to be done. Again, Ann Levine’s book has great stuff on how to do a proper law school resume. There are also other great admissions resources available that cover this subject and more. This stuff is generally cheap compared to the LSAT resources and can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are doing everything right.
- START STUDYING FOR THE LSAT. You’ll want to start studying about 3-4 months before the test in order to be sufficiently prepared by test day. Here is your self-study schedule to prep the best you can for the LSAT.
- Work towards the final draft of your personal statement. You want a lot of smart people to read it before it’s done so pass it around. Take criticism gracefully and improve and redraft it. When I think back on it, my personal statement wasn’t what it could have been. Sitting on it a couple weeks and rereading it can lend you perspective. I suggest revisiting a couple of times over the month until you (and any close writer friends you know) are totally satisfied with it.
- Keep up the LSAT study and avoid burnout. Here are my tips on keeping LSAT study stress at bay.
- Check to make sure your transcripts and letters of recommendation got through to CAS. It’s far better to make sure your house is in order now than in December. Politely ask anyone who has not turned in a recommendation to speed it up. Also check that your Dean’s certifications went through.
- Now we get into the the final month of your LSAT study. Stay intense. It’s not too late to see significant improvements in your score, so don’t despair if your practice scores aren’t all they could be yet. Look back at the schedule and follow our tips, especially the parts about eating, sleeping, and exercising. The last week is especially important. We’ve got tips for managing it here. Other stuff can take a back seat for a while. Focus on the LSAT and let us know if you have any questions at all here or our twitter @onlawschool.
- CRUSH THE LSAT. I’m not normally one for hyperbole and pep-talks but seriously, destroy that test. Here’s what to do the day before the LSAT. Here are some problems that you might encounter on test day and some solutions: handling test day.
- What do after the test. First off, just chill for a week. Rejoin the living and connect with friends that you have been neglecting well you were in the prep cave. Do some nice stuff for yourself because you definitely deserve it.
- Now, it’s time to finalize your apps. Entering all your information doesn’t take all that long. Just make sure that there are no typos on anything that will be sent to law schools. Check and double check. A common mistake that people make is putting the wrong school name on documents. If you have targeted personal statements for different schools, make sure you don’t screw up the name.
- Do any additional essays that schools may require. Again, no typos please. Once you send anything to a law school you can’t take it back. Most everything is electronic now so it’s not even possible like it once was to break into the school and steal your app back. Just make sure everything is right the first time.
- SCORES ARE OUT!!! We hope everything went well. Follow our advice about studying really, really hard and chances are good you’ll like what you see in your inbox.
- Send off those applications. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the holidays stress free. Best of luck and use the comments if you questions on this timeline or anything at all.