What Canceling Your LSAT Score Means for Your Application
- Jul 26, 2019
- Admissions, LSAT
You just finished your first LSAT. You’re nervous, exhausted and just happy it’s finally over with. But mostly terrified; how awful will your score actually be? Well, you could always cancel, up to six days after the test date, and on this particular July exam LSAC will very generously offer to show you your score before you decide whether you want to do so.
So, what’s the catch? Law schools will be able to see that you decided to cancel a test on your score report, and may hold that against you. But will they?
The truth is that one cancellation is perfectly normal — stuff happens and maybe you happened to be stuck in the seat next to the broken window with construction happening right outside, in a room with no air conditioning in the middle of July (or something similar). Totally understandable, just your everyday freak occurrence, no explanation required.
Where this becomes a problem is once you’ve cancelled multiple times. Law school is literally a series of tests, of which the LSAT is merely the first. Most classes will literally only count the final exam, so that test completely determines your grade. Even if you ace all of those grueling three-hour beasts, the bar exam exists post-graduation to ruin your summer travel plans. Only once you pass that can the real lawyering begin, and that isn’t exactly easy either. Law schools know this, and they view the LSAT not just as a way to see how good you are diagramming conditional statements or arranging mauve dinosaurs, but also as a stress test to see how you’ll react to the pressure of preparing for and taking a demanding exam like the LSAT. After all, the actual test day is a very different experience from taking all those practice exams at home or in the library.
Again, one cancellation isn’t a problem; there are tons of legitimate reasons to cancel a score, and admissions officers understand that. It’s the pattern of repeated cancellations that’s a red flag, and makes them question whether you can handle the pressure of law school, let alone being an actual lawyer. Plenty of people can’t: I knew of several that couldn’t even make it to the first exams in the fall of 1L year, and had a neighbor who had taken the LSAT three times, only to nervously cancel every time.
But what if, like my former neighbor, you had a string of cancellations but finally worked up the guts to get your score reported? And it was great? What do law schools do with someone like that?
The first step is to write an addendum, a short and succinct explanatory statement that lets schools know why they shouldn’t worry about the cancellations and instead focus on your score/grades/etc. It only needs to say that there were extenuating circumstances and that you’re not actually a neurotic flake who will literally melt under the pressure of a bar exam held in a convention center hall, as the clacking of fingers tapping at keyboards drilling a metaphorical hole into your brain. Because you’re absolutely not that — you’re a smart, capable person who loves challenges and is totally composed under pressure. You’re Joe Cool, casually noticing a movie star in the crowd before leading the game winning drive in the Super Bowl. That’s what law schools are looking for–cool, composed, confident and capable. Just remember to keep it short and to the point, and don’t over-explain what went wrong, convince them that you’re on the right track now and they’d be wise to admit you as a future alumnus. Make the facts work for you, not against you, just like a lawyer would.
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