Should You Wait A Year & Reapply to Law School Next Admissions Cycle?

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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. 

Take2

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: https://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.

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. Josh, I’m relatively new to this site and have been so addicted to the articles posted–I spend hours just reading, so thank you (and Evan) for such a great resource.

    I am a Political Science major and am scheduled to graduate a year early in Spring 2016. I have a cumulative gpa of a 3.5 though my gpa for my major is higher. I have yet to take the lsat though am attempting to prepare for it. I guess my questions simply break down to this:

    Because I am graduating a year early, should I put off applying to law school to raise my GPA and start pursuing a grad degree or basically take my time with my undergrad, or should I go ahead and apply for law school with my GPA as is? Also do admission officers look at cumulative GPA or your major GPA? Or does that really even matter (major vs cum gpa)?

    Also, I see study plans for the lsat but am trying to decide when is the best time to “hard core” prepare for the test? I have read articles on various sites stating that preparing too early can be harmful but preparing too late is also harmful, and I’m just at a loss for when to start preparing. I am really wanting to join the mastermind group when i can figure out when to apply/when to start preparing for the test. In the meantime, I’m currently familiarizing myself with logic puzzles, lsat vocabulary, and other “more relaxed” preparations until I know when I should really apply for admissions and prepare myself. I know I am aiming for the best scores and the best school admissions (somewhere in the top 20 schools) otherwise I know it would not be financially smart for me to pursue law school.

    I am hoping you can help give insight to my situation. Again, thank you for this post and I am excited to see the new things you and Evan continue to provide to readers!

  2. Hi, I was wondering if I should apply to Harvard Law School and with my average LSAT score I am not sure if I would get in. If I go ahead and apply to Harvard and do not get in, do you think it will at all hurt my chances when I reapply?

  3. What would you recommend with this profile:

    University of Pittsburgh: Economics, Political Science, and Philosophy triple-major
    GPA: 3.6
    LSAT: (September 2014) 162

    I feel like I could do better on a retake but I’m not sure if it’s worth the chance. My main choices of schools were Georgetown, George Washington, essentially the top 25 esque schools.

    I am not sure whether to retake in December, or apply and then possibly reapply if necessary in February with a hopefully higher LSAT score. Thoughts?

  4. Hello, I am currently in the weird status of being a Junior/Senior in the beginning of my 4th year of school (I will become a senior after the credits I earn this semester). I’m attending a research university as a Philosophy (Pre-Law concentration) major with a double minor in Political Science & Ethics. I am working on completing my Honors Thesis, and I’m taking 18 credits this Fall (5 Honors classes & thesis research credits) and 18 credits this Spring (5 honors classes and thesis writing credits hopefully). However, I would still be 9 credits away from graduation so I’d have to complete my degree by taking 3 classes during this upcoming summer (2015). I am debating when to take the LSAT, right now my advisor suggested taking it in December, in order to go straight into law school after I finish my undergrad courses this summer.

    I wonder if I should wait to take the LSAT over the summer of ’15 and apply next Fall in order to have a stronger application. At that time, I think my application would look better (with the majority of my grades reported and my Honors thesis completed and notated on my transcript). Right now my GPA is a 3.67, I am enrolled in the Honors College at my University, and I make the Dean’s List every semester. I’m hoping to push my GPA to a 3.75 with the remaining 45 credits I have left (Fall 14, Spring 15, and Summer 15′ semester grades). The main concern? I’m worried about that year of time off (using it wisely) and my undergrad loans becoming due as I wait to attend school in Fall of 16’….

    Is it better to wait until I’m done with ALL of my credits and push my GPA as high as it can possibly go, along with giving myself ample time to prepare for the LSAT and take the LSAT in June of 15′ or Sept/Oct 15′? Or should I go ahead and take the LSAT now (Dec 14′) and resign myself to submitting a transcript missing 27 credits and all of my distinctions (right now I’m set to graduate with a Honors, Advanced Honors & Research Honors along with distinction in my major). Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

  5. I graduated in December and am planning on taking the lsat this june and then teaching english in Spain until the following june. My original plan was to start my application process before I leave (I leave this October for Spain) and be hopefully admitted by the time I return to the states the following fall. Would you recommend waiting until I get back from Spain to start applying? Do many schools require in person interviews or would I be able to get out of that while abroad??

  6. I have a GPA of 3.0 with a LSAT of 155 and I am an Undocumented Immigrant. I studied for one year, my first lsat diagnostic was 139 and I went up to average 154. On the december 2013 LSAT I scored a 155. After studying for over a year, I feel tired. However, I am wondering wether retaking might be a good idea? I want to practice in Los Angeles and would be happy with attending Loyola. What do you reccomend. I am afraid of burning out. I work full-time now and it will be hard to study for the lsat….I could study and take in june….

    • Erick, I generally recommend that anyone scoring in the 150s retake at least once. Read our advice on why that is here: https://lawschooli.com/should-i-retake-the-lsat/

      Studying while working full-time is fully doable. I managed to do it, but I was not working any overtime. If that’s not possible with your job, you’ll just have to schedule your study time wisely over a somewhat longer period, like 4 months. May I ask how you were studying over the course of a year? We generally don’t recommend doing that especially if you aren’t studying intensely. Studying an hour or so ~3 times a week has been really ineffective from what I’ve observed. It’s important to have longer study sessions and do them pretty frequently.

      I don’t know how your status will play in the admissions process. In view of the recent ruling in California that allows law licenses for undocumented workers, I would imagine schools should have no reason not to admit you.

    • Erick, if you are interested in living/practicing in California, you should also seriously consider one of the California-accredited law schools. They offer smaller classes for non-traditional students and those who would benefit from tutoring and academic support programs in law school. Your GPA/UGPA are in line with the medians for those schools.

  7. What are your thoughts on non-credit Post-Baccalaureate programs such as the one offered from Graham Business school at University of Chicago?
    Do you think they will strengthen undergraduate’s resume/application?

    • No post grad work is going to be a huge difference maker on law school applications, and that goes double for non-degree work. Yes, they’ll like to see that you have kept busy and like learning, but beyond that don’t expect any boost. If you take classes, don’t do it because it might help with law school, do it because you are interested in the stuff and plan to use it somehow.

  8. I am currently prepping for LSAT and working full time in a public interest law firm. I have a 3.0 average and will be taking my LSAT in June. Based on my credentials, I am unlikely to get into any of the top 20 law schools in the States. My plan is to get a master in international law from an European institution since I have a special interest in international law and want to live abroad. I figured that getting some abroad experience will enhance my application for a top school in the states. Do you think I am on the right track?? If yes, could you recommend any European graduate institution that offers an excellent IL master degree? Thanks!

    • Hi Angela,

      I really don’t know a lot about European LLMs. I will say that it’s not going to help you too too much when it comes to admission to a law school back here. Unfortunately, undergrad GPA and LSAT will still matter a lot more than any other factors.

      Before enrolling in a foreign program, I would be really diligent about researching the job opportunities that can lead to. I know foreign students are often disappointed with the prospects they get from doing an LLM over here. It may well cost more than it’s worth.

      Your best plan really if you want law school is to focus 100% on the LSAT. A 170+ opens a lot of doors right now, even with a 3.0. A top 20 school would not be out of reach at that point.

  9. Sorry clarification from my last post:
    I have an interesting situation. I took the lsat in December and only scored a 156. My practices were at a 162 average, I believe I could get them higher as well. The night before the lsat my best friend was killed in a car accident. I am talking, 11pm the night before the test. I took the test, with obvious emotional trauma. I did not have the heart to sign back up and take it in February. First of all, would you recommend me waiting to apply and take it in june. I am 28 now, unsure how much more time I want to take off. Or else going ahead trying now, but also write an addenda regarding the death. I heard addenda’s about lsat scores just look bad.my gpa is pretty low (2.9), but I have an awesome resume devoted to civil rights law since graduation 6 years ago. I don’t care abuot t14 (obviously) but I would like a top 60 if possible still. Does the low application turnout really mean anything. When you receive an application waiver, does that truly mean you stand a chance at admission?

    • I don’t what to say, that is just a terrible thing to happen Max.

      Yours is a very easy case for waiting a year and retaking. Anyone who does that much below their practice average should certainly retake, 100% of the time. Your current numbers frankly aren’t going to get you into very good schools. You should study for June or some later test and do your best to max out that score. Also read our post on getting into law school with a low GPA https://lawschooli.com/getting-into-law-school-with-a-low-gpa/

      Don’t even think about the age thing. There are plenty of early 30 something in law school and they do just fine. You might get called an old man occasionally by your younger friends (that happened to me and I was 25 when I started) but that’s about it.

      Addendum don’t look bad if they are written for good reasons and you should definitely write one, but only after you’ve retaken. Otherwise schools will just be wondering why you haven’t retaken yet.

      The low application turnout definitely makes a huge difference, however, you do still need decent numbers to take advantage. Get that LSAT above 160 and you’ll have much better results.

      Waivers do not really mean you have a good chance. Schools give them out to boost the number of applicants, thereby increasing their selectively. The best way to figure out which schools you have a chance at is to look at the published LSAT GPA ranges for the most recent incoming class.

      Good luck and let us know if any issue come up while studying. We are here to provide advice.

      • kind of random but since when was 25 considered the age of an “old man”? Was there really a difference in maturity between a 22 year old and a 25 year in law school (at least where you went to law school)? Not that it should make a difference but I’m pretty sure you weren’t the oldest person on campus. Was josh one of the younger friends who called you an “old man”

      • Nah Josh is my age roughly (as were about a quarter of students). Any of these comments were purely in jest. I wouldn’t say that there is any maturity difference really. Rather, the students who were fresh out of undergrad were a lot less worldly.

        School is expanding, yes, but in some ways it’s very insulating, so I think time away from it helps round a person out. That’s one of the reasons I encourage a year off between UG and LS.

  10. What do you recommend to students planning to get married the summer after they graduate from undergrad?

    Do you think being married in law school is a bad idea?

    • No, it’s not a bad idea at all. I went to law school in the midwest, so students were pairing off and getting married like characters in a musical comedy. It’s no big deal.

      A ton of people will be married or in serious relationships in law school. Students are very friendly about including spouses in law school social life. Yeah you’ll miss out on the dating scene, but most would say that’s a good thing in law school.

      Congratulations!

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