Today on the LSAT blog: a guest post by Law School Expert Ann Levine, the former director of admissions for two ABA-approved law schools and the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert and The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers.
If you are disappointed in your LSAT score, you need to start by putting it in perspective. Is your LSAT score really, objectively lousy (for example, in the 130s) or is it lousy based on your abilities, or lousy compared to what a particular law school accepts? If it’s simply that all of your friends did better, or that it won’t give your parents bragging rights, then that’s probably reason to book an hour with a therapist. But if it’s disappointing because of its impact on your goals, here are some strategies to consider:
1. Evaluate reasons for your poor performance. If it was a fluke – totally out of line with how you have been performing on practice tests, then you need to re-take the exam. If you failed to prepare enough, that’s fixable. If you did not take enough timed practice tests, fixable. If you have a true history of underperformance on standardized tests, or a documented disability for which LSAC refused to give you accommodations, then you probably can’t fix your LSAT score, but you can do something about it – indirectly (see #4 below).
2. Reconsider which schools you would be willing to attend. If you’ve taken the LSAT multiple times and you are still not in the range where you’d hoped to be, you may need a reality check. If your GPA and soft factors aren’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, you have to re-evaluate your schools list. If everything other than your LSAT is strong, keep your dream schools on your list but add some more realistic options. (In the last couple of years, I’ve had strong GPA/soft factor candidates with LSATs in the 150s admitted to Harvard, UCLA, Georgetown, etc., so don’t give up hope).
3. Up Your Game. Okay, so you took an LSAT prep course. But maybe an investment in private tutoring would pay off dividends in terms of scholarship offers if it led to improvement of your LSAT score. If you did 7 or 8 timed practice tests, you have the capacity to do another 7 or 8. If you concentrated so much on LSAT Logic Games that you left Reading Comprehension to chance, concentrate on that. In addition, you can up your game in other areas of your law school application by improving your grades, putting thought into your letters of recommendation, making sure your résumé really accounts for your accomplishments in each of your positions, and making sure your personal statement, diversity statement, and optional essays are as strong as possible. You can also make sure to apply in the fall in order to take advantage of rolling admissions.
4. Provide context. Create a compelling reason to explain your poor performance. If you have two LSAT scores that are very different from each other, explain what happened – were you not feeling well? Did you exercise poor judgment by not cancelling your LSAT score? Or did you not prepare adequately, but your second (or third) LSAT score is more in line with your abilities after dedicating yourself? If your full-time job and home life prevented you from studying, if your finances prevented you from obtaining help with the LSAT, or if you have a documented disability and LSAC refused you accommodations, these are all facts the law schools should be aware of when evaluating your LSAT score, but they will only know about them if you choose to share them.
5. Decide not to go to law school. If you feel that your lousy LSAT score will keep you out of the one and only law school your heart desires, then you probably don’t really want to go to law school. You should consider your reasons for going to law school – want to be a lawyer? Must go to law school. Want to work in BigLaw after graduation but you have an LSAT score that will only get you into a fourth tier school? Counting on a scholarship to law school but your LSAT score won’t make you competitive for the free money? You need to have a serious talk with yourself about what’s reasonable and whether to move forward with applying. Does moving forward make sense with your reasonable expectations post-graduation? A lousy LSAT score might be a wake up call to get you to think more deeply about what you want to do with your career; if you later decide that you are determined to become an attorney, you may find that your LSAT score improves with new motivation to continue your quest.