What a glorious week all you February LSAT takers are waking up to. Exhausted, curled up, wrung out? Take heart, you could be these people over in Boston:
Here's some of the best news, though. For many years I've been banging the drum to apply EARLY, EARLY, EARLY in the admissions cycle. Recently, though, it's been more of a finger tapping.
Many people who submitted their applications last fall are already getting acceptances, so that hasn't changed, and that's a nice bonus for them. But the good news for you, dear Februaries, is that there's never been a better time to be applying late in the cycle.
Many law schools are in wait-and-see mode as application volume has dropped like a stone for several years. The result is that many people who applied early in the cycle are going to be hanging out on waitlists while schools see what applications still come in. That's true whether a school calls it an official waitlist or not. The reality is that many applicants aren't going to get a final yes or no answer until the summer or even early fall.
And some law schools have been quietly pushing out their application deadlines altogether. At the top law schools, February 1 used to be the norm. Many (but not all) have now pushed their deadlines out to the end of February or even March, so you still have time to submit some applications to top schools this cycle. The biggest tip of my hat goes to UNC Law School, whose deadline is August 1. That's right, August. I give them great credit for being honest and putting it right out there that the application cycle is going to be strettttccchhhhed through the summer. That's going to be true for many applicants at a lot of other law schools, too, whether the schools acknowledge that publicly or not.
Now that the February test is behind you, it's game time. Wrap up your applications so that you're ready to fire them off when your score comes back. And if your score isn't anywhere close to what you wanted it to be, it's OK and even advisable to push off your applications until this fall. I think that's the better way to go than the alternative, which is: apply in February/March with a score you don't like, get dinged a few months after that, and then submit another application a few months after that. If you've given your written materials your best shot for the first application, it's hard to come up with a brand new, whiz-bang application that is both different and plausible just a few months later. Then you're better off waiting and being first in line in September, with a new and improved June score. First impressions matter. (But if you have already submitted your applications, and February was a retake for you, you can let schools know that another score is coming.)
Side note for future applicants: Don't wait until February to take the test. Ideally, take it in the June before applications open up, with October as your retake option if you need it. Plan on submitting your applications in September/October, with November as your worst case scenario. Among other reasons, that timeline will allow you to remain eligible for binding Early Decision programs if you decide that's the best move. Those ED deadlines are typically in November.
Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college and graduate school applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and submit their best applications possible. Read more law school tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.