It’s almost February 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 June 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.
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: http://lawschooli.com/should-i-take-a-year-off-before-going-to-law-school/
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.
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.