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It’s law school application season and you might have your law school applications already completed and out the door. You may have gotten responses and could be feeling anything from elation to despair. Should you take one of the offers, or hold off?

Also, those of you who haven’t yet applied might be wondering whether to apply this cycle or wait and try to improve their application.  Maybe your LSAT isn’t as good as you hoped going into the process and you are contemplating a retake.

While there are a ton of reasons why it might be a good idea to wait a year and apply next cycle, it’s a hard decision to make. We wanted to address some of the common concerns people have in this situation and give some advice to help with the decision. 

Will Reapplying To Law School Hurt My Chances?

A lot people worry that reapplying will “look weird” or otherwise hurt their chances. I’m here to completely blow this myth out of the water. Every admissions dean I’ve ever heard talk about it has confirmed that reapplying in no way disadvantages you. It simply doesn’t make any sense for them to prejudice a candidate just because they applied before. Their aim is to accept any qualified candidate who might attend, so that’s what they do.  This holds true whether you were rejected or accepted the first time you applied.

Law schools know that you are a real, live person who has a million things going on, and a million possible reasons why you might need to delay going to law school. You won’t even need to explain it, just make sure your applications are completely updated next year to reflect what you’ve done during the year off.

Should I Wait To Apply Next Year?

Even though you now know it’s not going to hurt you, actually making the decision is still very hard. What I always say is that you shouldn’t downgrade your preferences about where to attend and at what cost, at least not until you are sure you’ve done the best you can do. Did you start this whole process saying that it was t14 or bust, and that you wouldn’t go to a lower ranked school? If that goal still looks even reasonably attainable, I encourage you to stick with it, even if it means waiting and applying next year.

Here is what I saw in my time teaching the LSAT: way, WAY too many people going to law school when they should instead hold off, and far too few waiting a year to strengthen their applications, improve on their LSAT, and apply earlier (all things that boost your chances of a good result). Without really knowing you personally, I can say this: if you are even debating whether to wait and apply next year, you probably should wait.

Everyone seems like they are in a massive hurry to get to law school. This attitude, however, often hurts future law students. Generally, you should only go to law school when you are sure you’ve put yourself in the best position possible.

RELATED: 5 Harsh Truths About Law School Admissions

Think about it hard — are you really okay with the options you’ve got this year? Especially if you applied late (or have yet to apply), consider the possibility that things might go better for you if you apply early next cycle. We discuss this more in our post on applying with a February LSAT score.

Will Law School Be Harder To Get Into Next Year?

No. People will still be applying to law school in historically low numbers for at least the next couple cycles (I’m writing this as of early 2014). I actually think next cycle, not this one, will end up being the cycle most friendly to applicants, as the number of people taking the LSAT is still projected to go down. Fewer LSAT takers means fewer applicants, which makes for a very applicant friendly cycle.

I’m Worried About What I’ll Do With The Year Off

I think a lot of people worry that they won’t be able to do much with the year off, so let’s talk about that. You might have put a lot of stuff on hold to take the LSAT and apply to law school, and now you think it will be tough if you press the pause button and wait to apply next cycle. I understand, but let me try to put your concerns at rest.

If you are reading this you are likely in your young 20’s. It’s normal to not have much going on. It’s okay if you are not on a Fulbright scholarship. Almost every other law school applicant is likewise not on a Fulbright. Law schools aren’t going to care a ton if you aren’t totally dominating the world in this next year. The economy is still a bit tough, so making fast starts out of undergrad isn’t always possible anyways.

It’s also a good time for a reminder that law school admissions is mostly a numbers game. That’s never been more true than right now. The biggest reasons to wait a year are that you may be able to improve your LSAT or, if you are still in undergrad, boost your GPA. We talk in depth about the decision to retake the LSAT here: Should I Retake The LSAT? Any significant improvement you make to your numbers is going to overshadow other considerations.

That said, you should try to use the extra time to improve yourself as a candidate in other ways. The bar is low, but you should be busy. Working as a bartender is fine, for example. If you are lucky enough to have the means, traveling is fine too. If you can’t do anything else or find a job, at least do volunteer work somewhere. I shouldn’t say “at least” —  volunteering will look really good on your resume and should be personally rewarding as well.

In general, if you are having trouble thinking about what to do with a year off, then I’m worried for you on another level. Law schools, especially the best schools, want interesting people. Interesting people shouldn’t have much trouble coming up with something to do with a year off, no matter your situation. For more guidance, we talk about what to do with a year off here.

I recognize that you might have fewer options when you have to provide for yourself, but law schools will understand that. Trust me, I was about as bohemian as they come before law school, and that didn’t prevent me from getting into a great school. Subsistence living is okay.

Seek Advice

We recognize that this is hard decision. The main point of this post, in the end, is that you shouldn’t feel bad about delaying this process. When it’s even a question, delaying is more often the smart decision.

If you want some coaching with your situation, let us know what you are thinking in the comments (it can be anonymous) and we’ll tell you what we think. You don’t have to listen to the advice, but it may help give you a little clarity.

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University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group

42 Comments

  1. I know this is a couple years late but this article applies to me. I took the LSAT twice total (once in September 2017, once again in February 2018 scoring 8 points higher than my first LSAT). I know that I can improve my LSAT score again if I put my mind to it and am not super happy with my options for law schools. I was really involved at my university and working during my studying days and just graduated last weekend so I won’t have as many distractions as I did when I studied last time.

    I’m concerned for a couple reasons:
    1) will retaking for the 2nd time (3 LSATS total) look bad?
    2) I’ve already been accepted to a few law schools and would want to reapply to about 3 of them next admissions cycle and I know you stated that law school admissions offices don’t care but it’s still a concern of mine.
    3) I did really bad in one class my last semester at my university which will decrease my cumulative GPA by .04 and am concerned that will affect my chances if I reapply.

    I really appreciate any advice you have to give me! Thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Evan and Josh,

    This post is several years old at this point, but I’m looking for some guidance so I figured I would give it a shot. I applied later in the cycle (mid-January), and am pretty much Mr. Waitlist: Chicago, Penn, UVA, Michigan, Duke, and Northwestern all put me on theirs. I’m still waiting on Columbia and NYU, but given the trend I’m not overly confident. My top LSAT is 173, though I scored 168 and 166 before that, and my GPA is 3.46 as an engineering major.

    In what now seems like a foolish move, I planned a few months of travel/volunteer work and put in notice at my cushy engineering job. Assuming I don’t make it off a waitlist, I’m trying to plan out what to do with the rest of the year and whether I should retake the LSAT. Do you think I need to go get another 170+ to prove that it is more representative than the other two?

    Say I do get off a waitlist at one of the lower ranked schools (e.g. Northwestern or Duke). Do you think a applying earlier in the cycle or maybe an ED to a select school would give me a good chance at cracking T10?

    Thanks,

    KO

  3. Hi Evan and Josh,

    Thanks so much for the advice in this post. I’d appreciate any feedback you might have regarding my situation. I’ve now taken the LSAT twice, the first time in June 2017 and the second in September 2017. The first time, I scored a 158, which considering I only spent about two months studying (and not very thoroughly at that), I was ok with the score. I vastly underestimated the test. I then began putting in at least 3-4 hours of self-study a day for the next three months immediately following that exam, hitting PT averages in the mid-160s. Two weeks before the test, however, my sister was in the intensive care unit for a week, and then I got pneumonia a few days before the test. Honestly, I knew I was testing under less than ideal circumstances, but was confident my score would at least improve a few points. As it turned out, it went down by a point (157). Statistically, I know this difference is meaningless from the earlier 158, but I know it’s still not enough to get me into top schools.

    I was planning on potentially applying early decision to Northwestern because it comes with the promise of a substantial scholarship. My undergraduate GPA is 3.97 (LSAC GPA is actually higher at 4.01), I have strong recommendations because I went to a small liberal arts college, and I’ve worked at the same company for over four years (all throughout college and they kept me on after graduation), plus several internships on my resume, so I think I have a solid application otherwise. My question to you is whether you think I should wait and take the LSAT again? I know I can do better . . . the only caveat is that testing a third time may delay my application to next year. I think I’m ok with that, because I simply don’t think I can cram for the December test. In fact, the prospect of spending another several months studying for the LSAT again does seem rather daunting. Thus, a break may do me well, but I also don’t want to forget everything I’ve learned so far either. If I did wait to apply—and I do think it would both increase my chances of admission and potential scholarships—when do you think would be a good time to take the test?

    Another possibility I’ve been thinking about is transferring. I think I have the numbers to get into a Top 30 school like OSU (which, because I’m from Ohio, would make financial sense, too). I could then potentially transfer. I think this option has more downsides than the former, but I would still like to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you!

  4. Hi!

    If were to apply next cycle again, would I have to get another letter if rec from my professors or would the ones already on file be good enough?

  5. repplayingcandidate on

    Hi Evan,

    Here’s my current situation.

    I have a good LSAC GPA: 3.80
    Terrible LSAT score by that measure: 159

    I was waitlisted at Georgetown Michigan and UCLA.

    And accepted at Emory and USC

    Given that I am thinking in terms of only t-14 was my decision to wait a good decision. I am thinking about scoring somewhere near the 163-65 range on the next LSAT try.

    In addition, I had significant work experience (5 or so internships, research assistanships, senior thesis, lots of ugrad scholarships).

    Thanks for the help

  6. Good afternoon Evan,

    I just stumbled across this blog – wish I would have saw it sooner! I am currently trying to go the Law School this fall and have been accepted to University of the Pacific McGeorge and Waitlisted at Santa Clara and USF. I’ve lived in SF for 6 years and have been working as a paralegal for 5, they now call me a “senior” paralegal! haha. Anyway it has been a few years since undergrad (graduated in ’09 from UW-Lacrosse, so not a bay area or CA school) and I’m now at the point in my career that I am and have been doing more than Paralegal “work” and its time to get the degree! I’ve dreamt of going to law school these last 5 years but my main concern is the economy/job prospects… I billed 2500 hours last year, and have been billing around 2k since I’ve been working in firms, so studying for the LSAT was slim. I tried to cram studying for the LSAT in only 3 weeks and I know I did not score at all to where I am capable. Let alone this is a completely different test than anything I have taken in my life! My undergrad GPA is a 3.0 – BS in Finance, minor in Econ, and an extensive Science background (originally Pre-Med) so all tough classes… I also transferred midway through my undergrad career to a better school so had to repeat some courses as the credits did not transfer and I worked full time. Long story short – I’ve learned my lesson and will not be working in law school!

    Anyway, I scored in the low 150’s on the LSAT and am wondering if I should wait, retake and reapply next year. I was scoring high 150’s before the actual test day and I did increase my score by 10 points by the time I took the LSAT so I believe there might be room to improve even more if I buckle down and study 3 months as you suggest. My only issue is really waiting another year…I’ll be going in at 30 years old and I feel like I’m going to be the oldest in the class and worry that somehow might affect job placements? It might be entirely vain and I am a type A personality so I’m a planner! My biggest fear is to get out of school with $200k in debt and essentially land a job making what I make now, or even less as there would be no overtime. My heart is set on Berkeley but I think its a long shot. I’ve also contemplated transferring to Berkeley if my grades are really good my first year? Any thoughts/suggestions would be MUCH appreciated!! Also, if I do end up waiting, any ideas/suggestions to make my current job worth its while to wait another year?

  7. Hello! I’m considering reapplying to schools. URM (Mexican) 3.5 gpa 168 LSAT. I am from California and really want to stay there. I am wait listed at UCLA and USC and Stanford and accepted at Berkeley with no money. I received a very good scholarship from UT Austin. I just don’t know how that translates to working back in California. I applied late in the cycle. Should I reapply? And if so, retake the LSAT? I was PTing at 162/3 and made 168 the day of the test. Thank you!

  8. John Mager on

    I took Feb LSAT…scored a 170. GPA is 3.8. Got some solid scholarship money for tier 1 schools and currently waitlisted at a few T14 schools. I’m currently trying to decide whether to wait till next year so I can apply early in the cycle, and apply to some T6 schools where I missed this cycle’s deadline. Thoughts? I figure I’ll even improve my scholly outlook for Tier 1 and have a shot at some T14, T6 schools that were out of the question this time around. I don’t wanna look back in ten years and question “what if….”…any advice is helpful.

    Thanks!

    John

  9. I studied for four months for the LSAT based on your study schedule. I continuously scored 168-171 on my practice tests. On the day of the test I had to go to the bathroom terribly during my first three sections, I also had the horrible two reading section test with the scored section being the last. I ended up scoring a 159 and am devastated.

    I spoke to my friend who is graduating from Georgetown this summer, and he recommended me going where I can/ want to, and performing well (top 10%) where I attend and try for a transfer. I am well aware that transferring is by no means a guarantee and not to bank on it/ I will not get a scholarship.

    I’ve also been freaking myself out lately reading law school scam articles and blogs.

    I found out today that I was WAITLISTED at Emory. Obviously, if I had scored how I attended to, it would not be my first choice, but at this juncture it is. I have received 50% scholarships to all the schools that I’ve heard from (Loyola Chicago, UM, American University, Santa Clara because I read they get paid well) I applied to 24 schools because I was scared, and spent $1000 on apps. I feel silly now because I’m considering waiting a year, again. It was always a consideration but now I really think it’s the right thing to do. I just don’t want to be a bartender for another year, and spend another 4 months studying, $200 on the test, and a couple hundred on apps.

    What do you think?

    Gpa is 3.5 from UF (2012).

  10. I’m currently in my third year of University and have GPA of 3.7. I haven’t studied for or written the LSAT yet, but I plan on doing that soon. I don’t have too many third or fourth year courses under my belt. Based on that, should I apply before I’m finished my undergrad?

    Also, I worked for an extremely controversial pro-life organization last summer and likely will again this summer. Will that hurt my application if I put it on there? Would it make me more competitive to work for a law firm that specializes in not-for-profit legal advice instead?

    Thanks!

  11. I found out last week that I am on the waitlist at UT Law. I anticipated this happening because I only scored a 163 on the LSAT, after averaging around 168-169 for several weeks of practice. My job as a teacher was really stressful the last 1.5 months before the test, so I know the quality of my preparation seriously dropped off. I almost didn’t go and take the LSAT because I knew I was underprepared, but I went anyway and came out with a mediocre score. My GPA is a 3.99 but my LSAT was under the 25th percentile for UT, so I knew the waitlist was a real possibility. I am a TFA alum and continued teaching for three years beyond TFA for a total of 5 years work experience. I also have a Master’s degree and strong letters of recommendation, although I know these don’t matter too much. I know my LSAT is what kept me from being accepted, so I would like your advice. I am planning on retaking the LSAT in June; in fact, I bought your 14-week study plan to restart preparation next week. I know I can do better than a 163. I have already put off attending law school for 3 years post-TFA. Would you advise me to retake the LSAT in June and try to get in off the waitlist and go next fall, if accepted, or is the smartest thing to retake the LSAT in June and then try again early next cycle? Thank you for your advice. I have referred to your blog a lot during my application process.

  12. I graduated last May and wanted to take some time off istead of going straight to law school. I was having second thoughts at the time. I took the lsat twice but both times I did not do as well as I was hoping. I am stuck now deciding if I should try applying to law school for this upcoming September with a pretty high GPA but not high LSAT or if I should study and retake the LSAT in June which means I will not be going to law school until the following September. Should I try applying to one law school with my current GPA and LSAT score and see what happens or would that be a waste?

  13. I think I already know the answers to most of my questions but I’m interested in what you have to say. This is my situation:

    I graduated in 2011 from UT (Texas) with a 3.75. After LSAC calculates my cumulative GPA, I think it jumps to approximately 3.77. My practice LSAT scores were typically in the 165-168 range, with an occasional 170. An important part of my strategy going in to the test was that I typically ace the logic games. However, I took the December 2015 LSAT and got entirely stumped by logic game #3, which resulted in uneducated guessing on more than 5 questions. I also made a rookie mistake and didn’t have the last 4 questions of my RC section bubbled in when the proctor called time. I was fairly certain my score would be well below my expectations, and I cancelled my score.

    So here I am. My applications are all 90% complete, save my personal statement and LSAT score (these are both very important, I know). My personal statement is quite unique. I don’t wanna sound like a braggadocios douche so I won’t go in to details, but it’s good stuff. I’m highly confident that my personal statement and rec letters will set me apart from most ot