One question I often get from students at this time of year is: should I cram to take the February LSAT and begin law school in Fall 2018, or delay law school for a year. Here are some thoughts to consider:
As a preliminary matter, every student’s situation is different. That being said, for the vast majority of students, my advice is to wait a year. I know for many students who don’t want to “waste” a year (or who have mom’s or dad’s who don’t want their son/daughter “doing nothing” for a year) that is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. Nevertheless, there are some very good reasons to postpone law school for a year if you haven’t taken the LSAT (or aren’t satisfied with your current LSAT score).
Before getting the reasons for my recommendation, let’s consider a few basics:
- The LSAT is currently offered four times per year: February, June, September and November. (As a side note, the LSAT administrations will increase to six times per year beginning in mid-2019.)
- Law school enrollment and applications have increased notably this year, and law schools are likely to be less flexible with “late” enrollments than in the recent past. Many law schools have application deadlines ending March 1 or earlier. If so, you will NOT receive your February LSAT in time to enroll to those law schools this year (it normally takes about three weeks to receive your LSAT score).
- One can see significant improvement in one’s LSAT score by practicing diligently for about one month, but to reach one’s potential on the LSAT it normally takes students (including very good students) a minimum of about 2-2.5 months, and sometimes longer.
- The LSAT score is the single most important part of one’s law school application, and typically is even more important than a student’s cumulative gpa.
Minor differences in one’s LSAT score can have a very dramatic impact on the law schools that one gets into, as well as potential merit-based scholarships that can be extremely substantial.
If it were me, I would wait a year and not consider law school for 2018. I faced this dilemma myself when I decided to go to law school. After college, I wanted to take a year off from school. However, by the time I got around to studying for the LSAT, I realized I would need to take a second year off, which I didn’t want to do. In the end, though, there was a big benefit in doing so: I had more time to prepare for the LSAT, which was very helpful. And, in the long run, having “lost” one year had minimal consequences on my life.
So, all that being said, here are the main reasons I think that most students would benefit from taking that extra year and planning on starting law school in Fall 2019:
- You will have plenty of time to prepare for the LSAT, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
- You will have the opportunity to take the LSAT a second (or even third) time, if necessary. Most law schools focus on a student’s highest LSAT score, and pay much less attention to the lower scores (a few law schools average a student’s LSAT scores). So, there often are huge potential advantages to taking the LSAT a second time, with little downside (other than the time and effort involved in having to prepare and take the exam again).
- Depending upon your schedule, if you waited a year, you could prepare for and take the June 2018 LSAT, and (if necessary) take the LSAT a second time in September 2018. If for some reason you had two bad days on both the June and September 2018 LSATs (not likely), you could take the LSAT a third time in November 2018.
- You will have the chance to take a live LSAT Prep course, which I believe – and LSAC studies have shown – can be a big benefit, if you find the right instructor.
- You will be able to apply for “early enrollment” for Fall 2019, instead of being very late in the application cycle for Fall 2018.
- It will give you more time to prepare your personal statement, acquire letters of recommendation, and assist with other intangible factors.
If you have any questions regarding your personal situation, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!