“When you submit an application to a law school (say, in November), but you are registered to take the test in December (or February), do law schools automatically see that and hold off on making a decision until they receive your score? Or do you have to “remind” them somewhere on the application form?”
That’s a great question (and something that a lot of students face around this time of year). Here’s the deal.
I know that paramount in a lot of applicants’ minds is the need to submit their application early (after all, it’s something that both law schools and any advisors–myself included–beat into their heads). So when the time comes to submit applications, many students are torn: What if they want to submit their apps early to take advatange of rolling admissions, but also want to take the LSAT again to see if they can improve upon a previous score (and therefore improve their overall chances)?
When it comes to submitting your application while still registered to retake the test, it depends on whether you already have a score on record and if you’ve told the school you’re registered to take the test in the future. Here are the scenarios:
- If you don’t have an LSAT score on record and you submit your application, the school will not review your app until it receives a Law School Report, which it requests from LSAC upon receiving a student’s application (and which LSAC does not send out until it is complete—which means it needs an LSAT score).
- If you already have an LSAT score on record, you submit your application, and you don’t tell schools that you’re taking the test again, then schools will just proceed as if the application were final, and could potentially render a decision before the next test’s scores are available.
- If you already have an LSAT score on record, you submit your application, and you do tell schools that you’re taking the test again, they will most likely hold off on reviewing your application until the scores of the test you told them you were registered to take are available, at which point they’ll request your Law School Report from LSAC, get it, review your app, and render a decision.
It’s pretty hard to game this system. I always tell students that, if the whole point of re-taking the LSAT is to improve their chances of admission, they should make sure schools know they’re taking the LSAT again (or they should just hold off on submitting their application until scores for the retake are available). Sure, if you’re in the second scenario, you might get lucky and get a school that is backlogged just enough to not review your app until your retake scores are available. Then again, you might not get lucky, and your app might be reviewed right away (and a decision rendered) without these new scores. Do you really want to roll those dice?
Remember, schools want to make a decision based on all the facts; don’t keep them in the dark! (Side note: this is also why it’s important to disclose and explain any potential negatives in your application via an addendum–but that’s another post for another day.)
As to how you can tell schools you’re retaking, there are a number of possibilities. Some schools have an area on the application form where you can notate that, or give you specific instructions on how to do it. For others, you may need to submit a brief note letting them know, or you should call them to alert them of the retake. In any case, make sure they are notified in some fashion!
At the end of the day, an LSAT score above the range a school is looking for will give you a much greater admissions advantage than submitting your app early in the process (don’t get me wrong, applying early also helps–but not as much as a killer LSAT score). When weighing the pros and cons of submitting early vs. telling schools your retaking the LSAT vs. retaking and hoping you won’t get reviewed until after scores are available, keep that in mind.