I took the July LSAT and scored 170, but feel like I could do better if I retook it in Nov. The logic games seemed very unusual and I doubt I’ll run into a similar section if I retake.
That said, if I retake in Nov, should I hold-off on applying, or can I get the ball rolling now and let my information be updated with a new (better) score?
If I plan to retake the LSAT in Nov, should I wait to apply?
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Congrats on the great score! Also, you ask a good question here, and one that we've debated a number of times recently.
First, should you retake November in pursuit of a higher score? The answer there is most probably a yes.
Conventional wisdom dictates that you should submit your completed application as early as possible because law schools use a rolling admissions process, which means that schools consider applicants in batches as the applications arrive. When an application comes in at the beginning of the application period (in the fall of each year), there are the fewest number of competing applications completed and the greatest number of available spaces in the class. That situation then reverses over time, and as students are accepted, there are fewer available spaces but of course more total applicants since the applications keep rolling in. So, the benefit of applying early is established. But, it's just one factor in admissions decisions, and by comparison, your LSAT score plays a much larger role (see Why Is My LSAT Score So Important In The Law School Admissions Process?). At most schools, your LSAT score is the single most important factor in your application, and so you want to do everything possible to submit the highest score you can achieve. Thus, when compared to how early you apply, a higher score takes precedence (even that score is just 1 or 2 points higher!). We did a statistical analysis of applicants, and results bore this out—see Does submitting an early law school application improve your chances? for the full analysis. The bottom line is that if taking the November LSAT positions you to score just a bit better, then it's worth it (especially at your scoring level where the lines are very finely drawn).
Let's also look at how applying November places you in the applicant group as whole, just so there's no concern about that. LSAC released applicant numbers a while back, and I made an analysis of when students applied based on that information—see Hoping to apply to law school early? What actually is early? for the full discussion. If your application is complete by early December or so, you will still be in what's called the First Group, which is the first 40% of applicants. That's good, and worth the shot at a higher LSAT score.
Second, should you apply early and then wait for the update, or delay your apps entirely until your score comes out? The answer here is less clear.
If you apply right at the start but ask them to hold your app (which they would eventually do anyway when they saw you retaking the LSAT), you get no benefit from applying early because your app isn't final. So, you are really only doing it to check it off your to-do list; you will not be reserving a place in line from starting your app early because your place is only reserved once every single component is final. So, the approach here is really up to you. Most people need more time to perfect their app, so it's really about what works best for you.
Please let me know if that helps. Thanks!
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All of that is very helpful, Dave, thank you.
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