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Reapplying to Law School: Is it worth it?

You’re probably here because you’re not entirely happy with your law school choices at the moment. 

Maybe you got rejected from every law school; or maybe you just got rejected from your number one school, but have other options; maybe you just got a bunch of waitlists and know you’re not getting any scholarship money if you are even one of the lucky ones to get off the list; or maybe you’re just not that excited about the schools you did get into. 

So at this point, you’re probably wondering maybe it is worth reapplying to law school?

This is not an easy answer, and is made even more difficult by how competitive the last few admissions cycles have been.

With so much more competition, more and more applicants are feeling like they didn’t get into the schools they expected to get into, or that they think they “should” have gotten into. And they’re probably right—to an extent. 

Since the pandemic, with law school applications through the roof, law schools have the pick of the litter. So having a GPA and LSAT score within a school’s typical median is by no means a guarantee of admission

So who’s to say that if you apply again next cycle, you’ll do any better?

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Does it Hurt to Reapply to Law School? 

One thing I want to get out of the way, is the common misconception that you’re disadvantaged by reapplying. I often get asked “does it hurt to reapply to law school?” And the unequivocal answer is: No! Reapplying will in no way disadvantage you. 

In fact, as long as you didn’t reject a school, you will likely get a small boost for reapplying to a school, especially if you were waitlisted there. It shows how committed you truly are.

I also recommend reapplying over appealing a law school rejection letter. While I have actually seen an applicant renegotiate a law school rejection letter in the same cycle after significantly improving his LSAT score, this is very very rare, and happened years ago, when law schools didn’t have so many applicants to choose from.

Should You Wait & Reapply to Law School?

Reapplying to law school is not the right choice for everyone. But over the years in working with reapplicants, including applicants reapplying during these last two super competitive years, I have observed some common trends in successful reapplicants. 

So if you’re wondering whether you should reapply to law school, I recommend asking yourself the following questions, and thinking about them carefully, before making your final decision. 

1. Can my application be improved enough where it will make a difference? 

You’ll need to take a hard look at your application and how you went about applying and ask yourself if you can realistically do better. And if you can, are you willing to put in the work to markedly improve your application. 

I say markedly because having one more line of description on your resume, or applying in October versus December, or something similarly minor, likely won’t make a big impact. 

Things that can make a big impact and significantly increase your likelihood of getting admitted the next cycle:

     a. Higher LSAT score.

If you can retake the LSAT and get above your target schools’ medians, it may be worth reapplying. But you really need to ask yourself: is this feasible? Do I have the time, resources, plan, to make a higher score actually happen? You don’t want to give up a law school offer to reapply on the hope that you’ll do better. Really ask yourself: did you max out with your LSAT score already? Did you put in all the prep you could and get a score similar to your average practice test scores? If so, this is likely not a factor you want to rely on when deciding whether to reapply. 

But maybe you studied for the LSAT on your own, and could improve with the help of a tutor (ask some tutors, hopefully they’ll be honest with you!) or a course. Or maybe you didn’t take the test seriously enough and only studied for a few weeks (I recommend about four months to really study). Maybe you had a lot going on in your life when you took the test, and now is a better time to focus. If these are realistic factors you can actually change, consider re-taking the LSAT. 

Now, if your LSAT score was above the median of schools you got rejected from, this is likely not the weak part of your application, and re-taking the LSAT probably won’t help much. 

     b. Improved essays. 

Like it or not, your essays do matter, and especially in this hyper competitive admissions environment, mediocre, or even off-putting, essays could very well be the reason you didn’t get admitted. 

You may think your essays were good, but how do you really know? I recommend reaching out to a professional here. Law school admissions essays are very different than other schools. Too often applicants write their essays like they would for undergrad admissions—typically this produces a mediocre essay; not terrible, but nothing that’s going to be the reason you get admitted. 

You essays, and particularly your personal statement, need to be much more insightful and specific to law, than most applicants put together, in a way that is not cheesy or dramatic. This is hard to do when you’ve never applied to law school before. 

I recently worked with a client who got rejected from all the schools she applied to in the 2020-2021 cycle. After working together and improving her essays, she was admitted to multiple schools off the same list she had previously applied to (and been rejected from), including a scholarship to a T-14. The only thing she changed were her essays. She didn’t retake the LSAT, she didn’t improve her GPA, and in fact, she had quit her job so her resume was less robust. But putting together powerful and persuasive essays can be that much of a game-changer. 

The other thing I mentioned with regards to law school essays, are those that are “off-putting.” By that, I mean those that come across as arrogant, immature, racist (or other type of hate), or sloppy. If you worry you came across this way in your materials, please reach out to a professional to review them. If you do reapply, some schools will look at your previous materials (more on this later), and you’ll want someone to help you strategically figure out how to present yourself.

 Your essay may also be off-putting based on your topic choice. Did you write about your broken ankle as being the most difficult thing you’ve ever done? (sorry, immature and out to lunch) Did you turn your personal statement into a creative writing masterpiece (great, but not relevant to law school). 

If you’re not sure whether your essays could be improved enough to make reapplying worth it, schedule a call with me and email me your essays from last year at I promise to give you my honest feedback. 

     c. More time. 

Sometimes being realistic with yourself and recognizing that you weren’t yet ready to apply is the best course of action. 

Was your resume pretty sparse from undergrad? You might want to consider taking a year or two and getting real-world experience. Many law schools these days are favoring applicants with at least two years’ of post-grad work experience; in 2021, 82% of incoming Harvard Law School students had at least one year of work experience, and similarly 90% of Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law had at least one year full-time work experience under their belt. 

Meaning if you applied straight from undergrad, you will likely do better taking at least a year off . . . if you will be doing something that would count as “full-time work experience” that law schools would find valuable. Just kicking it at home for a year definitely won’t help.

And if you had a pretty substantial undergrad resume, that included substantive work experience, an extra year alone might not add much. An additional two years may be necessary. 

More time may also be needed if you had a recent character and fitness issue. You may need to have more time between your incident and your application so that when you claim you won’t make that kind of mistake again, it is believable. Time will let you convincingly claim you’ve learned from your mistakes.

I had a client who came to me just a few months after being arrested and convicted for trafficking drugs. This experience was the reason he wanted to go to law school—because he recognized how difficult the legal process was and understood how even more difficult it would be for those without the financial resources he was lucky enough to have had access to. This was a fantastic narrative, but the problem was, it was so close to the incident that law schools wouldn’t be convinced that he was truly passionate about law school. He hadn’t yet done anything else to convince them of that, or to convince them this life was behind him. He just needed time. Fast forward two years later and he has consistently interned at a criminal defense law firm, and is now ready to apply. 

One final circumstance when more time may be needed is if you had a low GPA and you just graduated. The more time between that GPA and your application, the more you can convincingly say that you’ve now matured, and are capable of handling the rigors of law school. Getting real world work experience can also help make up for a low GPA. Now one year gap won’t make much a difference, but three will.  

     d. More robust resume. 

Was the biggest entry on your resume Greek life? Was your resume when you applied filled with things you did back in High School (p.s., don’t include those!)? 

If your resume was pretty sparse, and you can realistically do something within the next few months before you re-apply that would make it more robust, that can help. I’ll be honest though. I’m skeptical about what you could do within a few months, but maybe you’ve had a new job for the last six months since you applied, and by the time you apply you’ll have been there almost a year. That could indeed make a difference. Likely not this factor alone, but in addition to improving other parts of your application, this could give it a boost.

     e. Improved letters of recommendation. 

A lot of applicants don’t give enough thought to who will write their letters of recommendation. Did you ask people based on “prestige” over substance? i.e., those who have a more important title over those who know you or your work best? Did you fail to get any academic letters? Did you not get a letter from the employer you’ve worked for the last five years (cough cough, red flag)? 

Similar to a more robust resume, this alone likely won’t get you admitted, but in conjunction with other improvements to your application, improved letters of recommendation can significantly help your chances.

     f. Better explained character & fitness issue or other notable red flag. 

Think about whether you adequately and persuasively explained any weaknesses in your application. Writing a law school addendum is a strategic exercise, and if you come across in the wrong way, it can certainly hurt you.

Read here about how and when you should write a law school addendum

2. Are you willing to take the risk? 

If you’re thinking about reapplying, a critical question you have to ask yourself is: are you willing to risk giving up the spots you have now, with no guarantee that things will be different next cycle?

While improving your application will help tremendously, and candidly, I’ve never worked with a reapplicant who didn’t do significantly better the next cycle, you still need to be prepared for the fact that it may not go your way. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

 3. Are you banking on transferring instead of reapplying? 

If you want to reapply because you know you can improve your application significantly, but wonder if maybe you should just wait and apply to transfer after a year, I would think long and hard about this strategy.

Transferring after your 1L year to any school, let alone a higher ranked school, is not easy. And there is certainly no guarantee.

First, you typically have to be at the very top of your class (at least top 20%, but typically the top 10% or higher) to be considered…which is much more difficult to do and control in law school than in undergrad when everything rides on a single exam

Second, law schools don’t accept many transfers, and every year it’s different, making it hard to predict your actual competitiveness. 

Finally, there are disadvantages to being a transfer student. You may not have the same availability to spots on prestigious journals or other accolades, you may not be able to pursue the same opportunities such as certain clinics you’re interested in, or study-abroad programs. 

I do not recommend choosing a school with the expectation that you will be able to transfer. If you really are not ok graduating from the school you’ve been admitted to, then you should strongly consider reapplying and greatly improving your application.

Reapplying to Law School: Practical Tips & Considerations 

If you do decide you should reapply to law school, keep the following things in mind:

  • You will need to do something substantial during the next year: full-time job or volunteer work, master’s degree program or something similar. Admissions officers will expect to see you doing something this next year, not just sulking on the couch. 
  • Law schools will know you are a reapplicant and still have access to your first application. While not every law school will look at your original materials, some do pull them and review both applications together. This means that you need to be aware of how you portrayed yourself the first time, and while making improvements to your application, you need to still be consistent. For instance, if your first application talked about your deep passion to work as an immigration attorney and that’s the sole reason you’re going to law school, don’t suddenly switch tactics and say you’re interested in pursuing cryptocurrency law, unless you have a very real and persuasive reason for the shift.
  • Even though law schools may see your old materials, don’t just submit the exact same essays. They will want to see a new personal statement and supplemental essays to show that you really are taking reapplication seriously.
  • Some schools (like Penn Law) will ask you specifically why you didn’t enroll in school.
  • Some schools will require new letters of recommendation (like Stanford), but most won’t. Either way, at least get your letters updated.
  • Some schools limit the number of times you can apply, so if you’ve already re-applied once, look into whether you’re limited. (Harvard)
  • Continue to show interest in the schools that you’re pursuing. Even if you went the first time around, continue going to the new information sessions. And especially if you were waitlisted, reapplying can be an advantage because they know you will likely accept an admission. Make that very clear to them. Applying Early Decision to a school you were waitlisted at can also be a strong move to show them you’re ready to commit.

Whether you decide to reapply or not, always remember that you control your future. The rank of your school can matter, but ultimately what matters is how you use your law school experience and legal education. 

Reapplying to law school can be a great way to propel your future career, but also know that there are many paths to the same goal. You will get there if you are committed. 

Next steps 

Good luck and know I’m always here if you need help deciding what’s right for you.

You can read more about my law school admissions coaching here.

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Is Law School Worth It?

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Hope you enjoy this blog post! Want to know how to use the power of your personal statement to get into your dream law school, even if you aren’t the “perfect” applicant?

Mara has helped countless law school applicants get into their dream law schools, even without a perfect GPA, the highest LSAT score, or most unique story. Mara used to be a litigator at one of the top law firms in the world and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a prestigious Toll Public Interest Scholar.

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