Every year about this time (January through the spring), in each law school admissions office a Wait List is created. Students who aren't accepted but also not rejected are put on the Wait List (WL), and told there's a chance they might get in at some point. In other words, they get sent to law school admissions purgatory. And it's not just one or two students: Mike Spivey over at law school admissions firm Spivey Consulting Group notes that, "many schools will WL as much as 40-50% of their applicant pool, and at times up to half of the entering class will be comprised of those admitted off of the WL." That's a lot of people, and if you find yourself on this list, the waiting can be an agonizing process. Equally challenging is knowing the proper steps to take to get yourself off the Waiting List and into the Accepted pool. While Mike talked about those steps in the free PowerScore Law School Admissions Guide, what I want to address here is a little-known trick that can help you get off the WL: using the June LSAT to raise your score and get in to law school.
Students placed on the Wait List can often point to one of two culprits: LSAT or GPA. Other factors come into play—such as a subpar personal statement, less-than-stellar letters of recommendation, or a weak resume—but those can be difficult to quantify whereas a school's 25%/75% LSAT and GPA numbers are public knowledge. If your GPA is low for a school, there is little you can do to change your GPA in the short-term. However, if your LSAT is low, and you find yourself on the Wait List, you can use the June LSAT to make a run at improving your situation. Let's look at how it works.
First, to assuage one big concern, if you take the June LSAT and score lower (which we hope won't happen!), you will not imperil your application. Law schools typically only look at the highest LSAT score these days, so if you cancel or don't do quite as well, they won't care. As Mike Spivey notes, "The high score is all that goes to the ABA and the only score USNWR sees. Thus the high score means everything to a school's median LSAT and rankings, and all other scores/takes are meaningless. Put in practical terms, it behooves an applicant to take the LSAT as many times as needed until they reach what they deem to be their absolute high score potential. To retake for a higher score presents all opportunity with no downside, aside from very rare outlier scenarios (e.g. someone with 6 or more takes)."
Second, if you can score higher on the June LSAT, it can work to benefit you in one of several ways:
- It improves your position on the Wait List. Although law schools like to say there is no order or rank to the WL, improving your LSAT score gives you a numerical improvement in your position relative to other applicants. As Mike Spivey says, "With so many people on each Wait List, the easiest, most empirical way to differentiate is with an improved LSAT score. The higher the score, the more rare it is. This is measurable, factual, and coveted above all else in admissions. For many on the WL, a simple increase of just 1 to 2 points from the February or June LSAT can make all the difference."
- If your LSAT score is below the school's median, taking the test again and scoring higher takes away a reason for not admitting you, and makes you more attractive when they move to accept students off the Wait List (and every school uses their Wait List).
- If your GPA is lower than their median, your LSAT score can offset the problem. If you have been Wait Listed, adding a few points to an already strong LSAT score makes you even more attractive (it becomes less of a tradeoff for them—if you have a somewhat low GPA but a really strong LSAT, they can justify that trade).
- An increased LSAT score can lead to scholarship offers for applicants admitted off the Wait List. Spivey says, "This is one of those happy scenarios where I have seen hard work and persistence at the LSAT not only get applicants into their dream school, but even generate significant scholarship awards for being admitted off of the waitlist." So, not only can you get accepted, but it can improve your financial package as well.
Some students are concerned that the June LSAT is too late to help them with the Wait List. Law school classes typically start in August and sometimes September, meaning that the Wait List is used up until then. Since every advantage helps (even a small one like 2 extra points on the LSAT), the results from the June test can be decisive.
While the optimal strategy is to go out and nail the LSAT the first time and then never take it again, for Wait List students the June LSAT can be a silver bullet of sorts, held in reserve to use when you need to slay the law school admissions monster.
Questions or comments? Please post them below. Thanks!
Image: "Wait Here Sign" courtesy of Ken Teegardin.