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Apply to Law School with a Poor LSAT Score or Wait Until the Next Exam?

Today’s post comes to us from our friends at the Ivey Files. 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, law school, and MBA applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and navigate the application process. She is the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissionsand How to Prepare a Standout College Application, and also serves on the leadership team of the non-profit Service to School.

So you didn’t get the score you wanted on the September LSAT, and you’re planning on retaking in December in the hope of improving your score.  You and lots and lots of other people! What’s the best move for your application timeline?  Should you submit now with your existing score, or hold off until you have your December score?

I recommend submitting your applications with your September score, even if you think you’ll be retaking the test. You could always hold off on submitting until the December score comes in, or you could submit with September but ask the schools to hold off on reviewing your file until then (which is effectively the same as not submitting until the score arrives).

But that’s awfully late in the game to be submitting, and most repeat test-takers don’t go up by much. You might have wasted two months just to see your score go up one or two points, or even down; it happens. If you had a bad day in September, you might have another bad day in December. Some people find that they always have a bad day where they LSAT is concerned.

So it’s fine to plan on retaking in December, but don’t hold up your applications in the meantime.

Related question: When you’re submitting with your September score, should you let schools know that you want to retake the test? Here’s a pro tip: They don’t actually care that much if you’replanning on retaking — they care if you actually do retake.

You could let the schools know that you plan on retaking th test, but I’m not a huge fan of that option. You might not be able to take the test when the December date rolls around — maybe you wake up with the flu, or you’re snowed into your apartment, or some other emergency gets in the way. Life is like that sometimes, and it’s best to anticipate that kind of contingency. If you’ve told schools you’ll be retaking, and then don’t actually retake, it’s awkward to have to get back to them with a big old “nevermind.” Then it’s better just to send them a score if and when you have it. If all goes well and you do end up retaking the LSAT in December, the schools you’ve already applied to will automatically receive the new score.

And a word of advice to eary birds who aren’t applying this season: Make September*, not December, your backup. That means June should be the latest time you take your first test, so that your retake is in September at the latest. Then you won’t find yourself in these timeline pickles.

Good luck in December!

* Some years it’s September, in others it’s October.