Law School Application Game Plan

Law School Expert Blog

The law school application season has begun, and it can be overwhelming. It’s important to have a game plan so you don’t overlook anything. I have a 19-step checklist in The Law School Admission Game, but I also have a modified game plan on the Blueprint LSAT blog here. I hope these tools motivate you to get going, and in the right direction, on the right foot!

40 Responses

  1. Hi! Thank you so much for this blog! It’s quite helpful. I don’t know that this is the most appropriate section in which to post this, so I apologize if there is a better option, but I wanted to post it somewhere recent. I have a slightly unusual situation/dilemma regarding multiple scores and cancellations. I apologize in advance for the lengthy question!

    I took the exam for the first time in December 2010 (so almost 5 years ago) and scored a 167, after scoring in the low-mid 170s on a few practice tests. At the time, I was considering applying to law school along with another graduate program but not 100% sure, didn’t prepare as well as I could/should have, and decided to wait and make sure law school is something I really wanted/made sense for me (the more mature me says I shouldn’t have taken the LSAT then).

    In December 2012 while in the grad program I thought I might want to see about taking the test again as I still thought I might be interested in applying to law school. However, I had a personal/family situation a few days prior (that I would really rather not discuss in an addendum) and probably should have withdrawn, but I took the exam anyway and ended up canceling my score.

    I decided over the course of that year that, given that I would already have some debt from my graduate program, I really needed to be 200% sure that law school is right and necessary for me. Now, my work experience over the last few years and conversations with mentors have led me to the decision that law school is absolutely the right choice for me, and I plan to apply this fall and am very excited about going to school with such a clear sense of purpose and a more mature and well thought out perspective on my motivations for being there. Enter the LSAT again.

    I am in the process of applying and felt that I had prepared very well for the October (2015) LSAT, but I took it today and do not feel that I scored much higher than a 170, if that. I had been scoring 175-179 on practice tests and really do not feel that today’s performance was reflective of my preparation or abilities (I let nerves get the best of me on the first section and ran out of time at the end and had to guess on about 7 questions when I normally finish with time to spare, and I am confident that I can perform well if I practice pacing and simulate test-day conditions a bit better between now and December, so I plan to apply with my current score but re-take it then). I am shooting for scholarships, some at top-20 schools, so I really need to be scoring closer to the 175+ range. My undergrad GPA is in the 3.7s (and masters is 3.96 but I know this doesn’t count as much).

    Given that both my previous exam is almost five years old and my previous cancellation is almost three years old, would a December re-take (if I score in the mid-high 170s) and a second cancellation and/or another score in the 165-170 range be looked upon poorly by admissions committees?

    Thank you very much!

    1. Envirolaw2019, I’m so sorry I didn’t see this post earlier. I was having some technical difficulties with the blog. DId you get your October score? Or did you cancel?

  2. Is it frown upon if you do not answer the questions NOT REQUIRED on an application. For example, Did you apply to this law school before (is a require question) but the question asking if you were deny admission or not is not required. . so is it frown upon not to answer?

  3. Hello Ann,

    I have a question that I cannot seem to find an answer to anywhere. My father is a member of the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri. However, this tribe is not federally recognized. Would it hurt my application to specify a tribal affiliation that is not federally recognized? Would I be better off simply specifying Cherokee in my application, rather than my tribal affiliation? Some non-federally recognized tribes are considered illegitimate; I would not want to appear as if I am trying to “game the system”. I would really appreciate any guidance!

  4. Hi Ann,

    I have now taken the LSAT twice (152, 153) and am not sure whether to take it a third time or postpone law school for a year to take it again so I don’t use up my three attempts in two years. I have a high GPA (3.64, hoping to finish with 3.7) at a difficult undergraduate school and good extracurriculars, but am not sure whether this is enough to be admitted at a top 35(ish) law school (i.e. Ohio State University, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee).

    Would you advise me to take it a third time this year, as I feel if I focus better and push through on the test it will go better–or should I simply apply and see what happens and if I don’t get in where I would like to just take a year off and retake it then?

    Thank you so much!!

  5. Hi Ann,
    I have a question want to ask you about the law school admission as well as the legal field. I’m an undergrad at a flagship university in the west coast , ranked roughly ~120 according to U.S News. I’m in the honors program, double major in Econ and Information Systems. I’m an immigrant from Asia so now I can speak two languages ( my native language + English). I’m now planning to minor in a third language but having difficulties deciding between French and Spanish.( I currently have no background at them, so either one I’d have to start from square one) Which one do you think looks better on my law school application ? Also, which one is more useful in the legal field if I want to practice law in the U.S ? ( International Law is nice, but I’m more interested in being a public prosecutor or defender)
    Thank you Ann !

  6. Hi Ann,

    I love your blog and all of your helpful tips, and I’m really seeking your expertise here. I posted this question a few weeks ago, but never heard back, so I’m trying again because I’m really going back and forth here:

    I graduated from UC Davis in December of 2014 and have been working full time at a law firm pretty much ever since. I have what I feel and hope is a strong application by way of letters of recommendation, personal/diversity statements, and my resume. I got a 3.75 in undergrad and got a 163 on the October LSAT. I also took the June exam but canceled my score because I failed to bubble in guesses on a really bad games section (I’ve since improved at these quite a bit anyways). I am currently registered to take the December LSAT but I am really going back and forth.

    On the one hand, I was scoring consistently in the 166-167 range leading up even to the October exam, and have been scoring in the 166-169 range these past few weeks. I know I can do a lot better than that 163, and I suffered a great deal from a flukey reasoning section on the October test, which is usually my strongest section. I am trying to take a shot at the top 20 or so schools, and just don’t feel like my chances would be incredibly strong right now, which is frustrating to say the least. This is what went into my thought process to sign up for the December exam, but now I am not so sure.

    On the other hand, I don’t want the reason I don’t get accepted to the schools I’m aiming for simply to be that I have applied too late. I’ve spent a significant amount of time on my applications and they are close to being ready to send out. The main reason I haven’t finished them up yet is that I am focusing my time (aside from working) on studying. If I decide not to take the December test, I could finish them up and send them out before Thanksgiving. By virtue of having the apps almost ready right now, when I would get my December score (in late December or early January) I’d in all likelihood be ready to hit send on my applications virtually as soon as I receive the score.

    I’m wondering, essentially, if applying in mid-November with a score that is either at the 25th quartile for most of those top schools or below it (with a GPA usually at or above the median) is more advantageous, or (hopefully) getting an LSAT score that is closer to those schools’ medians or above them and applying in early January is more advantageous. I have gone back and forth on this a lot, and could really use your guidance.

    For personal reasons, deferring to apply next year is really really something I’d like to avoid. I’m wondering what you think would be best for this cycle given current law school application trends, etc. When I called a significant chunk of the schools I am applying to, most of them gave the sense that applicants are evaluated the same in November as they are in early January, so long as your application is in before the priority deadline. They made it sound like the only real difference is when I would hear back from the schools and POSSIBLY in regards to financial aid offers. Otherwise, it seemed, they reserve spots to be able to judge candidates equally in each wave of applications received. I don’t know how much credence to lend this.

    Thank you so much in advance for any help you may be able to offer me. As an aside, is there any advantage to submitting my incomplete applications in the next few weeks and then having the schools review them in early January when my December score would get in? Or is that pretty much the same as applying in early January all at once?

    Thanks again!

    1. Benny, I am so sorry. I had a glitch in the blog that was sending all comments to spam and I didn’t see them until yesterday. If I can still be of help to you, please let me know.

  7. Hi Ann,
    I am retaking the LSAT in feb but am applying for the 2015/2016 cycle. what is the standard for letting schools know of my plan. If I apply early will my applications be set aside until scores are released? Should I phone schools and let them know or is mentioning it on my application enough. I didn’t want to kill my chances by applying late so this is why I wanted to apply by end of this month. (I am having knee surgery end of this month which is why I’m not doing December and taking feb instead)

  8. Hi Ann,

    Thanks so much for your blog, I’ve been reading through it and have found it so helpful.

    I have one question about submitting an LSAT addendum.

    I took the LSAT in September 2014 and got a 153, then took a review course and raised my score to a 161.

    I then decided not to apply last year for personal and financial reasons, and I decided to retake the LSAT this October, and I did study for it again beginning in July, and my PTs were improving, scoring in the 167-170 range, but I at the time I was working 50+ hours a week, had personal issues going on, and plus the 6-7 hours of studying I was doing everyday, my PTs a week before the test started dropping and I knew I probably was experiencing burnout, and predictably, when I got my score back I got a 158.

    So my official scores are a 153, a 161, and a 158. I’m not quite sure if I need to include an addendum or not? I’m not sure how I would explain my dropping to a 158 without it coming across badly on my part.

    My GPA is a 3.75 if that helps.

  9. Hi Ann,

    I have two schools in NYC which I REALLY want to attend. One is a MAJOR reach, the other is a slight reach. I was just wondering if you think its best to apply binding ED to the major reach or the school that I’m more likely (though not guaranteed) to get into. I would take either, but obviously the major reach is a much higher-ranked school.


    1. Hi Heather, sorry it took me so long to respond. I would apply binding to the school you would most want to attend so long as finances aren’t part of the consideration for you.

  10. I heard you on the Thinking LSAT podcast, and you were great! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom! I’m hoping you can help with a question I have about the personal statement: Should I specify what type of law I want to practice when I graduate? If so, are there any areas that law schools are particularly looking for?

    I work in the entertainment industry. While I’m not sure I’m going to practice entertainment law when I graduate, I’m wondering if law schools might find it attractive. Do they value having an alumni presence in media? Or would they prefer their grads to work at big firms/clerkships?

    I’m specifically looking at top 8 schools, and I’m not planning to do a specialized program in entertainment law unless it’s helpful for admission.

  11. Ann,
    I am struggling with the Character and Fitness section, as I’m sure many do. I have an uncomfortable blemish on my record from high school. I called the admissions office of my top choice and they said I do need to include incidents from high school.

    This situation involved leaving school to take a friend to planned parenthood for emergency services. When it came up during my undergrad application the admissions office called my high school and the principal commended me for being brave enough to do something I thought was right despite possible disciplinary action. She said she would have done the same thing in my place, but unfortunately had to be fair and suspend me for leaving campus.
    I don’t know how much of this I should share on a law school application, it almost seems made up, and Planned Parenthood can also be a touchy subject.
    Thank you so much for any advice you have.

    1. Hannah,
      I think you’re over-thinking things – Just report this. It won’t be a weakness – it won’t keep you out of law school. You did the right thing.

  12. Hi Ann,
    I was waitlisted at 7 of the T-14 schools (also, 1 rejection, 1 acceptance, 4 have yet to respond). I plan on launching my “waitlist campaign” but I have several questions. (1) Should I send Letters of Continued Interest to all of those schools (each of which I would attend if it was the highest ranked school I got into)? (2) If a school offers me a spot off the waitlist with a narrow window of time with which to respond, what happens to my status on all of the other waitlists? Must I withdraw them? (3) Can I reserve a spot with this first school while waiting for responses from the others?

  13. Hi Ann,

    I am an over-eager, over-achieving sophomore at Ohio State University. I have a 3.95 GPA (and rising) and am double majoring in political science and journalism. I have several leadership positions, have done two poli-sci research projects, and also take care of kids with special needs as a side job and way to pay for rent/groceries. I am going to the University of Oxford (in the UK) this summer for a 5-week pre-law program and am planning on interning a later semester in Washington DC for a journalism major requirement.

    I am trying to decide between graduating a semester early or adding a minor in Public Policy to my degree. If I graduate early, I will save tuition $$$ but I will have a harder Junior Spring semester while studying for the LSAT. But I also don’t know the value of having 2 majors and a minor. I think my LSAT will be around a 165-170 and I am aiming to get accepted to HYS/CCN (top 6) schools but would also consider other schools in the top 25 for large scholarships. PLEASE HELP, I don’t know what to do and this decision seems massive.

    (abridged version: 2 majors, 3.95 GPA, hopeful 165-170 LSAT, should I add a minor and have easier course load or graduate early without added minor and save $$$)??????

  14. Would three withdrawals on your transcript hurt you I mean it was one freshman year one Junior year and One senior year. Second question would taking classes at a community college look bad on your transcript say an introduction to philosophy course or introduction to human communications. Do law schools look at applicants poorly if they have alot of intro level classes ex level 1000 and 2000. On my transcript its a mixture would that be a big deal ?

  15. Hi Mrs. Levine I have a question about Undergraduate transcripts How do Law Schools look at it if you have alot of level 1000 and level 2000 courses with a small mix of level 3000 and level 4000 classes. If you have a high GPA would it matter also does it matter if you took 15 credits at community college ?

  16. Hi Mrs. Levine I have your book The Law School Admission Game Play Like an Expert Chapter 3 talks about working the rolling admissions process. You said any application submitted after January 1 is begging to be wait-listed. My question if someone has a 3.5 and a 160 on the Lsat at the time of the application and there grade increases to a 3.6 by the Spring would the college increase their merit scholarship.

  17. If I would take the LSAT in December instead of November would that be a bad idea I am a college athlete and my season ends in December.

  18. My questions stem from uncertainty regarding how (if?) law schools take into consideration the “grade inflation” phenomenon when considering older applicants.

    My 1993 undergraduate GPA from a top-rated public university is about a 3.15, which I have learned was just above average for my school at the time. Today the average GPA from my university is 3.3+, which, if that was my actual GPA, would put me above the 25th percentile at one of my top choice schools and a bit shy of it at my top 10 reach school. (My LSAT will almost certainly be above the 75th percentile at both schools, though a bit less-impressively-so at the latter.)

    Grade inflation being considered would be very helpful to my candidacy but I am concerned that any attention I draw to the issue could look like I am making excuses for relatively poor performance (I am well-aware that even the adjusted 3.3 is still not impressive) or– perhaps even worse– whining. Neither is attractive but both become even less so with age.

    I did work full-time while an undergrad (despite being informed by the pre-law advisor twenty-some years ago that “no one works full-time and attends [enter snotty ‘southern ivy’ school name here],” too. Does that factor in? And again, does mentioning it look like I am making an excuse?

    1. Hi Sharedsky, It’s been 25 years since you graduated from college so your grades will be less of a focus in the application. I do think you should explain working full time, but probably not grade inflation since it’s something law schools will be familiar with.

  19. Hi! I just took the September 2016 LSAT and know I didn’t do as well as I was hoping. My practice test avg. in the couple weeks before the exam was about a 165, and my highest score was a 167. I’ve estimated a best case scenario for the Sept. score and it’s in the 164 range (although it could definitely be lower). I’m currently struggling with the decision to retake next year and take a gap year or to run with whatever score I get. I really don’t want to take it in December because this quarter is too busy to dedicate to LSAT studying.

    I’m especially unsure what to do if my score comes back in the 163-165 range because it is not that far off from my practice test average. On the one hand, I took the Blueprint course over the summer, so my practice test average was the culmination of a summer dedicated to the LSAT. I was not significantly underprepared or understudied. On the other hand, on every practice test that I took, including the 167 score, I did not even touch the 4th LG and my 4th RC passage was done in like 4:30. These were definitely my two weakest sections, which is why the September 2016 sucked so much for me (with the pretty straightforward LR and the curveballs in the RC and LG).

    I feel like because timing was a huge issue for me, and the 4th LG is a significant amount of points that can be scooped up if I can just fix the timing issue, that maybe the gap year/retake are worth it. On the other hand, getting back to where I was a year from now could be difficult, and maybe timing is harder to fix than I’m imagining.

    I’m a UCLA student and have a 3.87 GPA. I’d love to go to Georgetown or Berkeley. But I also want to do something in public interest/public policy, so money is a huge factor for me as well and complicates this decision. I don’t know if it’s a waste to take the year off, get the better score, and end up going to a school I could have gotten into with the lower score because they offer me a ton of money. How important would you say the higher score is for someone in my situation?

  20. How can I strengthen my application to get into an Ivy League with a 170 and a 3.9 GPA. I’m concerned that my score is too low when combined with the fact that I got my undergrad at a low-level college.

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