Waitlisted for Law School? Here’s What to Do Next
Being placed on a law school’s waitlist may seem like a setback. However, it’s important for applicants to remember that getting waitlisted is actually a positive reflection of the quality of their application—and way better than getting rejected.
If you find yourself waitlisted at one or more law school, take a deep breath and try to look at the situation in a clear light. There are many practical steps that a student can take when waitlisted to increase their chances of admission.
Most importantly, stay positive. A waitlist decision is not a negative thing and can often result in an acceptance further down the road.
Low LSAT score? Should you retake the LSAT?
Re-taking the LSAT is a big decision, and your LSAT score (when you receive it) should not be the only factor you consider when deciding whether you should retake the test. That’s why we’ve created a fail-safe checklist of questions you need to ask yourself when you evaluate your LSAT score:
Is your LSAT score lower than expected?
This first question is important in your decision-making process, and it requires you to ask what might have gone wrong on Test Day that prevented you from getting a better score.
Here are two of the most common scenarios:
- The Bad Day: Stuff happens; people take the LSAT injured, ill, or just in a bad state of mind (one applicant we know of was even hit by a car on the way to the LSAT but still took the exam anyway—a very bad move!). Sometimes a personal misfortune, such as a financial struggle or the death or illness of a relative, can hinder one’s performance. These are all legitimate reasons for a less-than-expected LSAT score.
- Preparation Issues: You’ve heard the one about the best laid plans? It is not uncommon to see students start out with some impressive plan for how much LSAT preparation they can squeeze into a certain period of time, and then find themselves unable to actually commit to as much time or effort as they thought they could. Once Test Day arrives, you might also find yourself freezing up or encountering unexpected anxiety that you hadn’t anticipated in advance. Preparation problems are certainly reasonable explanations for a lower than expected score.
If you faced some unforeseen issues on Test Day, the question of whether or not to retake is still on the table. You should look at your LSAT practice test scores to gauge whether or not there was a drop in your expected LSAT score, or whether you were close to hitting your goal LSAT score in practice.
If you do believe you are capable of a better LSAT score, ask:
How seriously did you underperform?
If your recorded LSAT score is significantly lower than your practice LSAT scores, that is a huge indication you should probably retake the test. By the way, when we say “significantly,” we mean at least three or more points. Three or four points can be a lot in the competitive environment of law school admissions—in fact, for those scoring in the 140’s, it can be the difference between getting into law school or getting shut out of an acceptance.
At higher scoring levels, three or four points could help edge you into a significantly better school. At all levels, great LSAT scores will absolutely help you get merit-based financial aid from an institution, up to and including a full ride. But just knowing you could do better is not the final barometer of whether or not you should tackle another LSAT test day.
The single most important question you should ask yourself about retaking the LSAT is:
Is there time to retake?
Will you have the time and peace of mind that you need to effectively prepare for the next (or another) LSAT test date?
This question should be the determinative factor, since you can’t take the LSAT again the next day. Students occasionally decide to retake without having the room in their schedules to continue preparing (often the same students who found that less-than-adequate preparation was the reason for a lower score in the first place), and see the same result come to pass.
So, even if you really should retake the exam again, it may not be worthwhile unless you’re able to get what you need in terms of preparation and peace of mind for a new LSAT test date. This isn’t a decision that should be made immediately because it means you are renewing your commitment to working towards a better LSAT score.
Keep in mind that whatever your particular situation, there may be additional questions that you’ll need to ask yourself. For instance, a few of you who are confident about having the time and peace of mind necessary to prepare for your brand new shiny LSAT score may also have some killer upper level courses and finals you may have scheduled or a business trip you’re planning on taking the week before.
We also want to assure you that we know that there are other types of scenarios to consider. For instance, some of you who prepared for the LSAT appropriately and achieved the exact score you were aiming for may now be thinking, “Gee, I think I can score even higher and make myself a stronger candidate for even more competitive programs.” This could be a good reason to retake the LSAT, but only if you have the time to fully prepare.
So, to retake or not to retake? This is often among the most challenging questions that someone will face during an application year. As long as you ask yourself the right questions, you’ll be prepared to make a confident choice.