A perennial question on would-be JD’s minds is when to take the LSAT. Because the test is so important, the short answer is when you can score the best on the test (usually when you have the most free time to study for it). However, there are also application factors to consider. Most law schools work on a rolling admissions process, which means seats are given away as applications come in. So you want to apply before the majority of other people in order to maximize your chances. When is that, you ask?
Well, here’s the nifty chart LSAC publishes that shows you when people applied for the 2008 admissions cycle:
According to LSAC, 60% of 2008 applications were received after January 4th. Which means that you want to get your application in before this date. This entails taking the LSAT in February*, June, or October in order get your score to law schools before the big crush. If you’re taking the LSAT in December, you definitely do not want to wait until after you receive your December LSAT score to begin working on your applications. It takes about three weeks to get your score so if you begin your personal statement afterward, your applications will likely be finished in January, otherwise known as when everyone else is applying. It doesn’t mean you won’t get accepted, but your application will be in the middle of a very large stack.
June test takers have the leisure of finishing the LSAT and working on their applications over the summer. If you’re taking the September/October test, you’re in good shape, but don’t wait to start your applications until December. The best idea is to begin working on your personal statement over the summer and fine tune it by having professors, pre-law advisors, etc. read it in early fall, after you’ve finished taking the LSAT.
Remember, your LSAT score is so important that a high score trumps almost any application timeline. However, all things being equal, applying earlier in the process is better, so plan accordingly if at all possible.
* This applies to people taking the February exam the year before they apply (in February 2010 to apply in fall 2010 for the 2011 school year, for example). Those who take the February LSAT for the same application cycle will be very late, indeed. In fact, not all schools accept the February test for their admissions cycles, so be sure to check with schools if you’re in this position.
Article by Jodi Triplett of Blueprint LSAT Preparation.