Law Admissions Lowdown

Top Law Coach advice for aspiring lawyers, published by U.S. News & World Report

American law schools, typically traditionalist and resistant to change, have adapted with rare urgency to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. In the spring of 2020, most law schools – like other educational institutions – moved classes online, canceled campus activities and events, and restricted libraries and other facilities. Many allowed their students to take classes on a pass-fail basis. From fall 2020 through spring 2021, law schools conducted most classes and activities virtually or in a hybrid online and in-person format. Despite the efforts of administrators and professors, many students expressed frustration and disappointment that their school year fell short of a full law school experience. Now that vaccines are widely available, most law schools anticipate a return to in-person instruction in fall 2021. To mitigate health risks, many are planning safety measures like mandatory vaccination, frequent coronavirus tests and social distancing. Many also plan to maintain remote learning options to accommodate international students, students with health concerns and others unable to attend classes in person.

In 2017, a year after the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law tested the waters, a few law schools began an experiment to start accepting the Graduate Record Examinations as an alternative to the Law School Admission Test. Since the GRE is more frequently administered and more widely used than the LSAT, those law schools hoped that accepting the GRE might broaden their applicant pool. Perhaps more graduate school applicants might consider tossing in a law school application as well.

The experiment proved successful, and more law schools joined along. Today, about 70 law schools in the U.S. and abroad accept the GRE. Educational Testing Services, the nonprofit organization that designs and administers the GRE, keeps a current list online of law schools that accept the GRE.

How to Defer your Law School Admission

Law schools around the United States offer the option of deferment to applicants who have been accepted to the school but, for some reason, cannot join right away. Since there is a significant gap between the day you receive your acceptance letter and the first day of classes, your personal circumstances might change. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to consider deferring your enrollment to the next year. But what, exactly, does deferment entail?

Read on as we take a closer look at law school deferments and how you can defer your admission. 

How to Defer Your Law School Admission

When a law school applicant receives an acceptance letter from a particular school, they can request the school to delay their official induction by one year or more, depending on their reasons for deferment. 

If a student’s deferment application is accepted, they may be required to follow a series of steps to ensure that the school will keep their seat for future enrollment. These steps include: 

  • Submitting a seat deposit.
  • Signing a commitment to the school.
  • Withdrawing your applications from all other law schools. 

If your deferment application is processed successfully, you will not be allowed to apply to other schools. Failure to commit to your binding agreement is a direct violation of your deferment contract and can jeopardize your legal career. If you decide to not join the school altogether, you will likely forfeit your seat deposit. 

Not all law schools are equally receptive to deferment applications. While some might accommodate students if their reasons for deferment are valid, others might not entertain their requests at all. Besides the specific law school policy, factors like the length of the student waiting list and the strength of your application profile also impact the school’s decision to accept or reject your deferment request. Most law schools grant deferments of one year to applicants, depending on their school’s admissions policy.

Grounds for Deferment

Your request for deferment is likely to be accepted if it has a sound basis. Most law schools grant deferment requests for unforeseen circumstances, including medical conditions, familial emergencies, military placement, etc. For unusual circumstances, the admissions department of the law school might allow you to delay your enrollment until your situation has been resolved. 

[Read more: How to write a perfect deferment request]

Law schools also tend to offer leeway to students interested in deferring their admission due to receiving a rare academic or professional opportunity that might benefit the law school indirectly. A fellowship might not only be a valid reason for deferment; it might also enhance your potential future career in law, and thus reflect well on the deferral-granting institution.

Your request is likely to be accepted by the law school if the reason is sudden and your request is brief. If you seek deferment for a family emergency, you may be allowed to delay your enrollment temporarily, so that you might successfully resolve your personal issues and return to continue your education.

Other Factors Affecting Your Deferment

Since you sign a binding contract with the law school to obtain deferment for a year or more, you might have to compromise in terms of financial aid offers and other merit aid. Additionally, if you are an international student seeking deferment, you might have to deal with extra complications regarding living in the United States if you are not actively enrolled at the law school.

While it usually only makes sense for students to defer in case of emergencies, some law schools also allow students to declare their interest in deferring in their application to the school. Some law schools offer specially-designed deferred admission programs for students who aim for post-graduate education. 

Requesting Your Law School for a Deferral

If you are accepted to a law school but are interested in deferring till a later date, you can check your law school acceptance letter or contact the law school admissions office to obtain more information on the school’s deferral policy. Similarly, it is also advisable to check with the school if any scholarships or financial aid will transfer with your deferral if your deferment application is accepted. 

If the law school rejects your request for a deferral, you still have the option to enroll for your original term. You also have the option to withdraw your application from the school and reapply at a later date, depending on your circumstances. It is advisable to refresh your application in case you choose to reapply next year. 

Because the law school admissions process is rolling, those who apply early in the fall have the highest odds of acceptance. Some applicants seek a further edge by applying either early decision or early action. Early decision and early action applicants submit their complete applications months before the general application deadline. In turn, their applications are evaluated promptly and they receive expedited decisions of acceptance, rejection or placement in the general application pool.

Early decision is a binding commitment with just a few exceptions. Applicants accepted early decision typically must commit to attend the law school that accepts them, withdraw any outstanding applications and not apply elsewhere. In contrast, early action is nonbinding. Applicants accepted early action can still apply elsewhere, secure in the knowledge that they have one certain option. While dozens of law schools offer early decision, early action is rarer. Only a handful of law schools offer both options. Since early decision programs are more common and more limiting for law school applicants, it is worth considering the benefits and drawbacks.

Law schools love applicants with backgrounds in science and technology who bring useful skills and perspectives to the classroom and the courtroom. Most law school applicants, however, have backgrounds in the humanities or social science. Many of them feel confident with literary analysis or political debate but nervous when asked to work with scientific terms and concepts.
Knowing this, the LSAT includes many reading comprehension passages that relate to science, technology or technical aspects of law or philosophy. Such passages can seem daunting, with a dry tone and dense technical jargon. Here are some tips to shake off any fears about science passages.

The fast pace of the LSAT makes the test fiendishly difficult. In fact, the LSAT is designed so that the average person cannot finish on time. Because time is scarce on the test, it is important to budget your time wisely.
Think about how you manage your time at school or at work. When you receive a slew of new assignments, you don’t just sit down and do them in the order you received them. If you find a task taking longer than expected, you don’t just let it take over your calendar. Instead, you set a realistic schedule to get as much done as possible within the time you have. You prioritize each task based on how much time and energy you anticipate it will take, how much you like it and how important it is. Likewise, time management on the LSAT means taking control of your time.

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