LSAT – WHY UNDERGRADS EYEING LAW SCHOOL SHOULD TAKE THE TEST NOW
The LSAT is a difficult and daunting test. Difficult because it tests new skills, under strict time limits. Daunting because so much rides on the outcome: 90% of the admit/deny decision for students with comparable GPAs is based on the LSAT.
Though Law School may be three to five years away in the eyes of many undergrads, planning for law school should begin while in college, and may very well include taking the LSAT. There are three reasons why studying for and taking the LSAT should be done during college or soon after:
- College students have more time to create for dedicated study than during post-graduate time. LSAT success requires dedicated study. Juniors and seniors may whine about how “busy” they are, but once starting on a 60+ hour a week job plus commuting, college is relatively uncluttered. The exception: post-grads who are unemployed or underemployed. That IS a good time to study for the LSAT.
- The college student’s brain is likely at peak capacity. Students in their early 20s have been immersed in learning, and are likely at their peak time for absorbing new high-level material. Aging rarely helps. Every few years of postponement makes the task harder. Denise Park, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Texas, writes “Older people have to work harder to learn new information, and be more strategic about it,” she says. “You’re not going to be as efficient as you were when you were younger.” That’s with the same task; when encountering a different task when you have been away from serious cognition in a non-academic job, the challenge is even harder.
- LSAT success while you’re in college gives you more options. While law school might be on the “back burner” right now, you never know whether your first post-grad job will evaporate. A bad economy is a good time to be in school. Law school matriculation comes 6 – 12 months after applying. Come December, those who don’t have an LSAT score on record have to wait 20 months to matriculate at a competitive law school.
An LSAT score is good for 5 years. Thus the students who have a decent likelihood of applying to law school gain every advantage of getting the LSAT done well early.
Now, for those undergrads wanting to head straight to law school, a strong early LSAT is necessary, but not sufficient for admission. Law Schools have deliberately reduced their acceptances of “no-experience” applicants. To be among those chosen while still an undergraduate, you typically need to show the admissions offices maturity and accomplishment, and give a convincing statement that “law school and/or lawyering truly is a right choice for me”.
One way to be more assured is to not take the LSAT at the last minute. December, February, or June of junior year evidences planning. No college offers “LSAT” courses that require waiting until senior year. The one course that often helps indirectly for the LSAT is “Rhetoric”. We encourage sophomores or even freshmen who are considering law school to take a semester’s course in rhetoric.