Confessions of an Admissions Dean

September 29, 2007

Dear Asha:

I am planning on taking the December 2007 LSAT. Will taking the exam so late hurt my chances of gaining admission for Fall 2008?

S.K., California

Dear S.K.,

Excellent question. The short answer is no.

I realize this contradicts the common wisdom for law school applicants, namely that because most schools have a rolling admissions process in which slots are filled on an ongoing basis, it’s to an applicant’s advantage to apply as early as possible. I’ll delve into our file reading process, which also involves offering admission on a rolling basis, in more detail soon. But for now let me just say that based on the way we distribute files for review – which is unique, as far as I am aware – your admission chances stay more or less constant throughout the season. The most important thing is to have the strongest application possible, and if that means you need until December to prepare for and take the LSAT, so be it.

There are a couple of disadvantages to taking the December LSAT. The first is that it is the last LSAT you can take in order to apply for Fall 2008. So, if you are unhappy with your score for any reason, you either have to apply with what you’ve got or take the test again and wait to apply next year. The second is that since our application volume increases as we approach the deadline, and since our review process is fairly lengthy to begin with (we are very thorough), the later you apply, the longer the delay between when your application becomes complete and when you receive a decision. I mention this because some applicants receive scholarships with early deadlines from other schools, and depending on where your application is in the review process, we may be unable to expedite a decision based on such factors.

Finally, let me add a personal note about getting too anxious about the LSAT. Sometimes, when I am wading through hundreds of LSDAS reports, I have flashbacks to my own LSAT trauma back in 1995 (you don’t need to do the math, I’m 32). It was the last section, and I felt really good, having just eaten the Rice Krispies treat I had diligently packed for energy over the break. I sped through the last section just in time, sat back, and handed my test to the proctor…only to notice to my horror as I handed over the test that I HAD BUBBLED 27 ANSWERS TO 26 QUESTIONS. Yeah, those words went through my mind, too.

Whatever I wrote in the writing portion was gibberish, since at that point I was sobbing uncontrollably. I went home, tortured myself over whether to cancel my score, ultimately decided to keep it (it was the September test, see paragraph 2), and then spent the next six weeks wearing sweatpants and staring at the ceiling of my dorm room. This was back when you had to wait for your results to come in the mail. Yes, like in an envelope.

Anyway, the story ends well, i.e., I got into law school (though I still have major issues with Scantron answer sheets). The point is that I was once a neurotic law school applicant myself, and in the words of a famous Yalie, I feel your pain. But it’ll be fine…trust me.

-- Asha

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