Not happy with your choices for law school?

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Not happy with your choices for law school?

Postby js87 » Mon May 17, 2010 10:17 am

TLS has helped me tremendously, from beginning to end, with the law school admissions process. I wanted to share my experience with the hope of giving back to the TLS community.

If you've finished the application process and you're unhappy with your choices for law school, read this. This post is designed to 1) assuage fears of taking time off to reapply, and 2) offer a basic primer for doing it.

I graduated with my Bachelors in the Spring of 2009 (roughly one year ago, as of this posting). Like most eager, law school destined undergrads, I took the LSAT during the June of my Junior year. While I studied for it, I didn't prepare nearly well enough. I also had some family issues that unraveled in the weeks before the LSAT. It definitely hindered my ability. I scored a 161. My GPA was ~3.75.

The First Go
My goals were a bit hazy and unfounded, which I believe is a fairly common trait among the undergrad applicant cohort. I spent the summer between my junior and senior years diligently preparing my personal statement, resume, and applications. I applied nice and early to my list of schools. If memory serves, I applied to: University of Florida (resident), University of Miami, Fordham, Cardozo, Brooklyn, St. Johns, and Cornell (long shot).

Things did not turn out well. Without much hesitation on their part, Cornell rejected me. Fordham and Cardozo waitlisted me. UF dragged their feet until April before flat out rejecting me, which was puzzling and upsetting. Miami and St. John's admitted me with a scholarship. Brooklyn admitted me at sticker. Cardozo eventually admitted me to their summer start program. I had loved the school when I toured it, but after exhaustive research (thank you TLS), I could not bring myself to attend at sticker.

I struggled between St. Johns and Miami. I visited both campuses, and the Miami ASW. Honestly, I didn't like either. I wanted to live in New York, but St. Johns had barely a foothold in the crowded market. I had a recurring vision of living in a leaky studio basement apartment in Queens and eating Ramen noodles until I was 50. I also had qualms with UM. It only placed well in South Florida, my home market, and I dislike South Florida. I was also very unimpressed with their program offerings and campus. Regardless, I came very close to attending Miami.

Timeline: March or April of my senior year. Around this time I began to have an existential crisis. None of my options felt "right". In fact, they all felt horrible. I was completely unhappy with every possible option.

I followed my gut instinct. I decided to retake the LSAT and reapply. This would mean losing a whole year (Third Eye Blind reference there). I had been preparing to begin law school in only a few months, and now I'd be waiting over a year to begin. Since I was set to graduate, this meant an awkward year. My parents were not thrilled. They equated "taking a year off to reapply" with "never going back to school". Eventually they relented.

I signed up for the October LSAT around late April. This gave me a solid six months to prepare. Although embarrassing, I was fortunate enough to move home with my parents. With few expenses, I made a pact with myself: Taking a year off would mean making LSAT prep and law school application my top priority.

(I have more specific info on preparing for your second attempt towards the bottom of this post)

I retook the LSAT that October and scored a 171. A 10 point improvement. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. I began the application process again. Deja vu. Except this time, things went much better.

The previous year I had been waitlisted at Fordham. In August they finally let me know that I was NOT offered admission off the waitlist.
This year I was admitted in the very first batch. I was also offered a $20,000/yr scholarship. Ironically, it was only a few months after being denied for the previous year.

The previous year I had been waitlisted and subsequently admitted to Cardozo at full price.
This year I was admitted with a full tuition scholarship.

The previous year I had been denied at Cornell.
This year I was admitted in the non-binding EA group with a $30K/yr scholarship. I was shocked when I found out.

The previous year I did not even apply to Georgetown.
This year I was admitted with a scholarship.

I was also accepted to GW and a few others.

I'm not posting these results to brag, I'm posting them to show how much you could benefit by simply increasing your LSAT a few points.

The Moral of the Story

Taking a year off was one of the best decisions I've ever made. After the applications were done I got a job and saved up as much money as possible for law school/post law school. I also gained valuable work experience in the process. I spent tons of time with my girlfriend and my friends. I started a nonprofit and this summer (before law school starts) I am volunteering for a political campaign. It was anything BUT a lost year. It was an amazing year. A bit boring at times, but amazing.

If I had decided to attend Cornell, taking a year off would be literally worth more than $90,000. If I had decided to attend Cardozo, taking a year off would be worth more than $120,000.

If you are NOT happy with your options, consider doing what I did. Your parents, your friends, your significant other -- they will all give you a hard time about doing it, but you need to do what is best for YOU. Do not attend the "best worst option". You're talking about three years of your life, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and your career. If you don't like your options, and your LSAT may be at fault, consider retaking the LSAT and reapplying.

I guess the point of this posting was to provide a personal experience in regards to reapplying. You often hear people give the advice "retake the LSAT and reapply" , but people may feel uncertain. I hope this sheds some light on at least one person's experience.


If I decide to retake and reapply, do I have to withdraw from every school?
In general, yes, you will have to withdraw. You can reapply the following year. At least in my experience, they will not hold it against you. SOME SCHOOLS, however, may be willing to offer you a non-binding deferral. It's definitely worth asking. If you can get a non-binding deferral at a school, it will at least mitigate the risk of bombing your second round of LSAT/Applications. You will have a "Plan B".

Do schools average your LSAT? Do they care about your lower score?
Speaking from personal experience, I would guess "they generally only care about the higher score." The truth is, unless you're on the admissions committee, you can't possibly know. But my admission to Cornell and Georgetown would indicate that they only care about the higher score. I was waitlisted at several other T14 schools, however. Whether or not it has to do with my LSAT discrepancy is anyone's guess.

Should you write an LSAT addendum?
I did. Succinct and honest.

Should you submit a new personal statement, or keep the original?
Although I was only reapplying to a few of the same schools, I rewrote my PS. I wanted a brand new application. I recommend doing this.

Did you get new Letters of Recommendation?
Yes. I don't think you necessarily need to, but I wanted stronger letters.

How should I prepare for the retake
I was fortunate enough to have the time to dedicate to LSAT prep. Taking a year "off" can be depressing, but filling at least part of that year with a structured LSAT schedule makes it less so. I did LSAT prep work roughly 4-5 days per week. I did about two to three hours per day.

EVERY Saturday morning I took a practice LSAT. I knew where my test center would be (empty classroom at a university), so I tried to actually take practice tests in that room. I'm big on simulating test conditions, including the time and place.

Over the summer I took a powerscore prep course. It helped give me fresh material and structure, but it didn't actually raise my score much. I was practicing in the 169-171 range by the time I entered, and ultimately ended up with a 171. However, the class is great and I highly recommend it, especially if you haven't "maxed out" your potential yet.

What should I do with my year off?
Work, if you can. Save up money for school. Also use this last opportunity to enjoy free time. See your friends, travel, and go to the beach. Volunteer for a cause you support.

I really owe TLS for helping me over the past year or two. I feel really nerdy for posting this whole thing, but I hope it helps someone!
Last edited by js87 on Mon May 17, 2010 12:21 pm, edited 7 times in total.


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Re: Not happy with your choices for law school?

Postby Matheson » Mon May 17, 2010 10:30 am

Congrats! I have decided to do the same thing and retake in Oct. LSAT re-prep here I come.

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Re: Not happy with your choices for law school?

Postby HazelEyes » Mon May 17, 2010 10:38 am

I'm seriously impressed.

Good job, and congrats! Where are you attending?

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Re: Not happy with your choices for law school?

Postby js87 » Mon May 17, 2010 10:51 am

Matheson wrote:Congrats! I have decided to do the same thing and retake in Oct. LSAT re-prep here I come.

Thank you, and good luck! You have plenty of time to get a fantastic score. Make sure to utilize all the great resources on TLS.

HazelEyes wrote:I'm seriously impressed.

Good job, and congrats! Where are you attending?

Thank you for the kind words. I decided to attend Georgetown, and this time the decision felt 100% right :).

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Re: Not happy with your choices for law school?

Postby TonyDigital » Mon May 17, 2010 11:03 am

Congratulations OP! I like to hear success stories like yours.

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