LSAT test date changes—what does it mean for application timing?

For as long as anyone can remember, the LSAT has been offered four times a year, and while annoyingly restrictive, this provided a certain rhythm to the application cycle. All that changes this year. As I write this, many of you are taking the unprecedented July LSAT. More changes are afoot, with the fall LSATs moved to early September (Sept. 8th) and mid-November (Nov. 17th). The rest of the academic year looks different as well, with 2019 test dates on January 26th, March 30th, and June 3rd. After that, LSAC is hoping to move to all digital LSATs and offering the test every month except May and December.

So what does that mean for the timing of your LSAT and your application?

The law school admission process largely works on a rolling admissions basis, with decisions being made on at least some applications as they arrive. What this means is that there are more seats available in any given school’s class earlier in the application cycle, and fewer left to compete for later in the cycle. In an ideal world, this means applying earlier is better than applying later. But not crazy early! It’s fine to apply in September or October if you’ve got everything together. But you should know that at a great number of schools, admissions officials are not really reviewing applications yet. They’re out on recruiting trips, trying to ensure they have a good number of apps to review.

What this means is that early November is the sweet spot—early enough without making yourself crazy, in time for most early action deadlines (usually November 15th), and not so late that the open seats have become a rare commodity.

This makes the June, July, and September LSATs perfectly well timed for applying this Fall.

But what about November? Or even, gasp, January or March?

If you’re planning on the November LSAT, you should be fine for anything except early action deadlines. LSAC plans to release those scores by December 8th, so if the rest of your application is good to go at that point (or already submitted), you’ll still be applying in the early wave of the cycle.

Late January or late March, on the other hand, are really much later than you should be considering in order to apply for Fall 2019 admission. Even during the many years in which application volumes were dropping, applying that late in the cycle was a risk. Now, with applications up over 8% last year, and expected to go up further this coming year, the resulting increased competitiveness of the admissions process makes it easy to advise against relying on a January or March LSAT (and subsequent application in February or April).

Bottom line: If you’re planning on delaying the LSAT until 2019, just wait until Fall 2019 to apply for Fall 2020 admission. There are no downsides to working for a(nother) year before attending law school, and the potential upside is a much better chance at admission (and scholarship).

As always, if you have questions and are a UMass Amherst student or alum, don’t hesitate to email me.