Advice for Law School Reapplicants (and First-Timers, Too)

I'm planning on applying to law schools sometime in the near future, but this won't be my first time applying, as I applied to several last fall. The reasons I didn't attend any law school were because I didn't receive any financial help (LSAT score wasn't high enough) and didn't get into any of my top choices. But with the expectations of a significant score increase, I was wondering if I should be writing a completely new personal statement and obtaining different recommendations? Would I be correct in assuming that even with an improved LSAT score, reapplying with the same personal statement and recommendations is not a good idea?

For your essays, it's always a good idea to write something new if you're reapplying. You get another bite at that apple -- how great is that?!?

If you originally submitted a personal essay ("who are you?"), you can show a different side of yourself this time. If you wrote a professional essay ("why law school?"), you can talk about developments since your previous application that have validated your existing goals, or perhaps taken them in a different direction. Either way, it's a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity to say something more, or to say something else.

All that being said, be careful that you don't present yourself as a totally different person from the last time you applied. Your reapplication has to have credibility and authenticity, so if there is too big a swing in the space of one year, you won't sound credible or authoritative. Instead, build on your application from before. Coherence is good.

For your recommendations, you don't necessarily need to go out and procure new ones. Note that most law schools prefer academic recommendations, so if you haven't done more academic work since you last applied, stick with the academic recommendations that are already on file. 

If you have in fact done more academic work, it might be good to get a more recent academic recommendation, assuming the recommender has meaningful things to say about you. (If not, don't bother.) 

If you've been out in the working world since you last applied, it's fine to supplement your existing recommendations, as long as the new one contributes something to the overall narrative (i.e. it in some way supports your motivations or reasons for going to law school or your longer term goals). Unless a school asks to see a professional recommendation, though -- and most don't -- it's fine to stick with your older academic ones.

And some advice for applicants who haven't applied before: Learn from our nice reader from today's post, and don't apply until your application is competitive. You can certainly reapply if your first application isn't successful, but you have only one chance to make a first impression. Why not make it your strongest one, too?

I recommend that you look at the previous year's admissions data to determine whether the LSAT score you have is competitive for the schools you have researched and decided are worth the investment. Only you can decide (and you should decide) which schools are worth it, and you should not settle for schools (i.e. pay for schools) that aren't likely to set you up to meet your goals, whatever they are.

Bottom line: Apply when you're in peak form: with the best LSAT score you can achieve, and the best essay you can show them. Don't make yourself keep going back to the well to come up with better scores and better written material. And if you do find yourself having to reapply, take that opportunity to show them something better than before.

Recommended reading from the archives:

Good luck with your reapplications! Please let us know how it goes.

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book, and read Anna's tips on Twitter and Facebook. If you have thoughts on this post, please share in the comments. Have a separate question for us to tackle in the blog? Please email us.