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Taking the February LSAT


If you took the LSAT in June, September, or earlier this month, you probably have your sights on Fall 2010. Well done on the getting-your-shit-together-on-time front (your apps had better be sent out by now, though, or at least near completion so that they can be sent out shortly after you get your December score). But now we find ourselves coming upon the February test, which is a much more liminal beast.

The February LSAT is no different than any other test, so don’t worry, there’s no mysterious balsa wood bridge construction challenge or anything. And it’s certainly no “harder” or “easier” than any other LSAT (this has been gone over extensively, but needless to say LSAC puts the “standardized” in standardized test). So if you were planning on taking February because you heard it was easier, or were avoiding it because you heard it was harder, purge those considerations from the equation. I don’t care what your friend told you. Your friend is an idiot.

The one annoying thing about February tests is that they’re non-disclosed. If you take any of the other tests given throughout the year, you get the privilege of getting to pour over the test, bemoaning all the questions you missed that totally make sense in retrospect. You have to forfeit that pleasure in February, and just believe them when they tell you your score is what it is. This is kinda lame, but I certainly wouldn’t let it factor into your decision. At the end of your day, the only thing that matters is your score, which is determined before you even hit the writing sample.

If you’re planning on applying in Fall 2010 or later, to enroll in Fall 2011 or later, then the February test can actually be a pretty great choice. First of all, you have ample retake opportunities. Let’s say you’re not ready, you can then shoot for June. Then you get sick in June, you can cancel and take it in October. You get a score later that month, and can still apply way ahead of the pack. Secondly, February can be good for those currently enrolled in school. At most universities, early February is way before finals or even midterms, so you can be worrying (and worrying a lot) about just the LSAT. The downside is that you have to study all over winter break, which blows, but get over it.

If you are planning on applying to go in Fall 2010, and haven’t yet taken the LSAT, then make sure that schools will accept your February score (not all do). I surveyed some schools (read: someone else did the work and I’m taking credit) to see which schools are down for the February exam and which aren’t.

The Yes Crowd:
University of Pennsylvania
Washington University in St. Louis
New England School of Law
Boston University

The No Crowd:
UT Austin
South Texas College of Law

The “Yes, but” Crowd
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Yes, but…Applicants who submit scores from the February 2010 test may hinder their chances of admission because their applications will not be completed until late in our cycle.

Yes, but…we cannot guarantee that seats in the incoming class will still be available.

Loyola Law School
Applicants (to the Day Program) who take the February exam are at a competitive disadvantage because we do not receive these scores until March.

University of Virginia
Yes, but…This may reduce your chances for admission.

Yes, but…your application will be considered late and admission will be on a space available basis.

Yes, but…due to our rolling admissions process we strongly encourage you to take the LSAT by the October test date if you plan to apply for the Full-time program.

Yes, but… applications which are not complete by our February deadline are at a tremendous disadvantage.

Yes, but… since admission decisions are made beginning in early January, we recommend that applicants take the LSAT no later than the Fall or Winter.

Syracuse University
Yes but… it is recommended that you take the LSAT no later than December as scores from the February test may delay the admission decision.

So if you’re in this boat, make sure you check with all the schools to which you’re interested in applying. As you can see from the list above, there are some excellent schools that will take a February score, and conversely there are many lesser-known regional schools that don’t, so don’t assume one way or the other. Also, whether or not they take February scores can depend on if you’re applying for full- or part-time study, so if you’re doing any sort of non-traditional route, make sure to ask if the application guidelines and restrictions are the same.

I should also point out that it’s possible that financial aid might be a bit harder to come by if you’re applying later in the cycle. A decent amount of financial aid is given out on a first-come basis, although it’s certainly not the case that you’re out of the running. Also, schools often use financial aid to woo you from higher-ranked competition, so if you plan on going to the “best” school that you get in to, they probably weren’t going to give you a lot (or anything) anyway, so if that’s you, there isn’t necessarily a major disadvantage.

So if it truly makes absolutely no difference to you whether you apply for 2010 or 2011, then you might want to consider waiting. But if you’re shooting for next Fall, and a decent number of schools that you’re interested in accept February scores, then it can be a viable option.

There’s another reason to take the February test—to get off wait-lists. If you take the test after you’ve applied, and you get a score that’s considerably higher than the one with which you applied, many schools will take that into consideration if you’ve been wait listed. So if you’re on wait lists (or still waiting to hear from schools), and you think you could do a lot better in February, you might want to consider signing up; if you cancel before the three-week deadline, you’ll still get half your money back, and if you pull out after that, you’re out $132, but otherwise really not that worse for wear, so there’s not a whole lot of risk. So if you’ve already taken the test and have applied or are about to apply, signing up for February isn’t a bad insurance policy.

One more thing: due to the fact that for some schools it’s deemed to be too late for the current cycle, people often assume that February is the least-taken LSAT. That’s actually barely true. In fact, about as many people take the February LSAT as do the June exam, sometimes more (although they’re both considerably less populated than October/September and December). But centers filling up is certainly a real possibility, so if in doubt, sign up now. As my girlfriend says, you can always pull out later.