It's done! Congratulations, you completed the July LSAT — a historic test, the first widespread administration of the new digital format. But what now? Here are ten things to do that will help put you ahead of the game come September when applications open!
The test is over. You've been working hard, studying, and preparing. You deserve a break from the test, at least for a few days. Don't jump right back into prep, even if you plan on retaking. Your brain needs some rest. Go outside and enjoy the summer while it lasts. You earned it!
And try not to worry about your score. Applicants are often poor judges of how they did on the test, especially in the days immediately after the test. Put it out of your mind until August 28th!
Don't Immediately Cancel Your Test
July is a unique LSAT administration. For the first (and probably only) time ever, test takers will have the opportunity to see their score before choosing to cancel. Scores release on August 28th, and you'll have until September 4th to choose to cancel. This offer applies regardless of test format — digital or paper, you have this choice. And if you do cancel, you get a free retake! We talk about this more in depth here.
What does that mean for you? It means the usual cancellation advice goes out the window. Fire alarm going off? Don't cancel yet. Violently ill? Be patient and wait for scores. Completely misbubbled multiple sections? Maybe you'll get lucky, find out on August 28th! There's zero downside to waiting and seeing your score before making the cancellation choice. We'll have more advice on that decision later in August.
Sign Up For An LSAC Forum
LSAC offers forums in multiple cities across the US and Canada where applicants have an opportunity to meet with representatives from almost every ABA accredited school. These are a fantastic opportunity to meet with adcomms at schools you're interested in and get information straight from the horse's mouth. We have a blog about some of the dos and don'ts of these events that you can read here. Find one near you!
Want an added incentive to go? Schools often send application fee waivers to those who stopped by their table and signed in. Application costs can add up fast, so just signing a few pieces of paper can save you hundreds of dollars. Plus free pens galore!
Reach Out to Your Letter Writers
Letters of recommendation are a key part of your package. They tell admissions offices what other people think about your potential to be a good attorney, your academic skills, your performance in the workplace, and more. Joe Pollack, a former admissions officer at the University of Michigan, recently wrote a blog about setting your letter writers up for success. One of his key points? Giving them plenty of time. Letter writers are busy people. Professors will be gearing up for the new semester. Professionals are working day in and day out. Show them the courtesy of giving them plenty of time to write your amazing letter of recommendation. You'll get a better product, and a happier professor/boss/colleague/etc.
Send Your Transcripts to LSAC
The LSAT isn't the only quantitative component of your application. LSAC will also gather your academic transcripts from any institution you've attended and send them to all schools you apply to. Undergrad courses, graduate classes, classes you took for fun, all of it needs to be sent to LSAC. You can read about the process here.
What will LSAC do with these transcripts? Besides sending them to schools, LSAC will also re-calculate your undergraduate GPA to standardize it. You can read about that process here. Most people won't notice any change — but it matters, as the LSAC-calculated GPA is what schools report to U.S. News for rankings — so it's what they primarily use to judge your grades.
Why get started on this now? Well, it's LSAC's off season. You'll get a much quicker turnaround on processing and GPA calculation now than in October. Another advantage is finding out sooner rather than later if your LSAC GPA is different than expected — good or bad! It gives you plenty of time to adjust your application plans accordingly.
Brainstorm and Draft Your Personal Statement
Numbers aren't all that matters. Admissions committees want to see more from you, and the personal statement is one way they do that. Take your personal statement seriously and give it the attention it deserves. This is your chance to really separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
We have some posts offering advice on how to craft the best personal statement you can. But at the end of the day, a good personal statement is one that you think tells admissions committees something important about you, something that they wouldn't know from the rest of your application. And that's going to differ for every person!
Research Your School List
This is one that a lot of people put surprisingly little thought into, but is so important to a successful cycle. Ultimately, you'll be attending one of the schools on your application list, and it will be perhaps the most important decision of your professional career.
But how to do that? Well there are a lot of factors to consider. You should think carefully about what type of career you want to have — do you want biglaw? Public service? Small town attorney? Where do you want to work? New York City? California? Des Moines? Research schools that will give you the best chance to achieve those goals. A great place to find raw stats for outcomes are ABA Employment Outcomes. You can also see them in a nicely organized visual format on Law School Transparency. You should also look into how strong a school is in the areas you're interested in — tax law, or environmental law, etc.
How about costs? Law school is, to put it mildly, an expensive undertaking. Think carefully about how comfortable you are with different levels of debt. Weigh your likely career outcomes against monthly payments to determine how much you're willing to borrow at each school. Websites like lawschoolnumbers.com can help give you an idea about what kind of scholarship assistance you might receive at a given school, based on your stats and application profile.
A quick note on stats: they're very important to your application cycle (duh) and should have significant influence on where you apply. Until you have an official LSAT on record it can be tough, but use your PT's to give you a range and explore options/outcomes that way!
In the end this is a highly personal set of choices. Don't rely on generic rankings or what other people tell you is important. Think about what matters to you, and plan accordingly. Coming August 1st we'll be releasing our personalized rankings tool, My Rank, which will allow you to weight different factors and generate a list of schools that might be of interest. We hope you find it useful!
Now that you have a working list of schools, you can start thinking about the cost of applying, which is an expensive process. LSAT prep material, taking the test, CAS fees, application fees, school visits, etc. It adds up fast. If you haven't already been budgeting, start now. Estimate how much it'll cost to apply to the number of schools you're considering. Think about whether you'll be a candidate for application fee waivers (usually based on LSAT/GPA relative to the schools medians). If you haven't already, look into whether you're eligible for LSAT and CAS Fee Waivers (contrary to popular belief you can still be eligible even if you've already paid for an LSAT!). The costs will sting less if you're planning and putting money aside now instead of waiting until the day you apply.
Plan Law School Visits
This is the most optional item on the list. Law school visits are absolutely not mandatory for admissions at any school. Instead, they're primarily useful for you as an applicant to get a real feel for schools you're considering. Not sure about moving to the city where the school is located? Spend some time getting a feel for it. Want to know what the culture is like at the university? Speak to current students and get a sense of how supportive the school is, what the community is like, and whether you'd feel at home there. Many schools offer guided tours or the chance to sit in on classes; take advantage if that's of interest to you. We've also got a video on some school visit tips!
And come application time, if you particularly enjoyed a trip to a school don't be afraid to mention it! Discussing an in-person visit can make a "Why X Law School" particularly compelling and show admissions officers you're serious about attending their school.
Strategize Your Cycle
Everyone has unique circumstances, and it's important to take stock and plan accordingly. Are you a splitter? Consider planning to get your applications in early, and be prepared for a longer wait than other people. Think you'll be retaking the LSAT in the fall or winter? Decide whether you want to use your existing score to apply to some schools, and wait to send in applications at others. Potential C&F issues? Get ahead of it now and look into how it's going to influence your applications at each school on your list. And everyone, regardless of circumstances, should have a general idea on the timeline they're working with — when they want their materials uploaded, letters in, applications submitted, etc.
Your application cycle really kicks off now. Get ahead of the game by working on the items above so you're not scrambling in the fall! The better prepared you are the smoother your cycle will go — and trust us, when you're deep in the weeds of applying and waiting you'll appreciate having put the time in now to get your ducks in a row.