Admissions Question: August 12
Q: I am thinking of applying for next fall, but then want to defer my admission to the next year. What advice would you give about doing this?
A: Generally, law schools will strongly discourage you from taking this approach. Deferrals are intended to allow for the unexpected events that prevent you from being able to attend school for the year you applied.
It is very difficult for law schools to make plans and predictions for their incoming classes if they are receiving applications from people who do not intend to matriculate that year. Because of this, many schools have chosen not to grant deferrals at all.
It seems that most people interested in this option are college seniors who wish to take off a year or two before attending law school and are worried that the longer they wait to apply, the weaker their applications will be, especially with regard to getting recommendations from professors. The thought is that the further out of school they are, the less their professors will remember them and therefore, they’ll get weaker letters of recommendation or none at all. One must keep in mind that you can request a letter of recommendation and submit it to the Law School Admissions Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) and they will keep it on file for you for five years. While letters that are five years old are not ideal, letters that are one or two years old are usually fine to use for your application.
Another way to mitigate this concern, is to let your professors know that you’d like to get a recommendation from them in the future when you plan to apply to law school, and then make an effort to keep in touch with them over the next year or two so that they don’t forget you. When you are ready to apply, you should remind your professors that you would like a recommendation, provide them with a copy of your resume and personal statement, and then set up an appointment (via phone or in person) to discuss your goals and reasons for applying to law school. Professors often write great letters for a student they taught a couple of years ago, while also commenting on the student’s growth and maturity since graduation.
An additional concern graduating students have is that they need to take the LSAT when they are in the study “mode” and must apply to law schools with a recent score on file. Similar to the letters, your LSAT score will be kept on record with the CAS for five years and most law schools will accept scores up to five years old.
There are a couple of legitimate reasons to apply now with the knowledge that you might actually attend law school a year later. One reason is if you are currently applying for a program such as the Peace Corps or Teach for America and have not yet received an acceptance from the program. If your plan is to go to law school if you do not get accepted to such programs, then it is understandable that you would need to apply sooner than later. Some schools will offer 2 year deferrals to those going into the Peace Corps, but with the ease of internet access across the globe it can be quite simple to apply to law school even while serving in a remote area of the world.
If you have other reasons for applying while knowing you’d like to defer, you should contact the admissions office to discuss whether this is a wise approach for your circumstances.