The deadlines for seat deposits at law schools are rapidly approaching (around April 15). It’s time to decide where to attend law school! In many cases, these decisions prove difficult. Scholarships, living expenses, geographic locations and other considerations all play a part in the decision process. Here are some tips and suggestions to help applicants through the seat deposit process.
Reconsider the Right School/Wrong School Mentality. Many applicants see their choice of law school as a Right/Wrong dichotomy. They feel pressure to pick the “Right” law school so that everything will be wonderful and life will be perfect. They worry that if they pick the “Wrong” law school, life will be miserable and they will spend their days regretting it. It is more accurate and helpful to approach this decision by acknowledging that there is no one perfect law school for everyone.
A better focus than Right/Wrong is: What is the best law school to help YOU achieve YOUR GOALS? Every law school will have strengths and weaknesses. Your job should be to consider what your priorities are in a legal education, and to choose a school that matches those priorities. Note that it is important to focus on YOU and not what Mom/Dad, significant others, family, friends, etc. think. You are the only person who can decide which law school is right for YOU.
Reconsider your priorities. When considering schools to apply to, we asked: What are your priorities in a legal education? Think back on that pre-application priority or ranking. Some priorities to consider or reconsider include:
- Where do you want to live and practice after law school?
- What are the employment outcomes of this school?
- What specialty programs does this school offer?
- Did the law school seem like a good fit for you when you visited?
- What would your overall investment cost (see more on that below) to attend this school?
Carefully consider scholarships. It is critical that law students know and understand exactly how much of an investment their legal education will be. Make sure that when you consider scholarships:
- You have carefully calculated the cost of attendance (your actual, out of pocket costs to attend 3 years of school with the scholarship). Do NOT just compare two scholarship amounts!
- IF considering an out of state public school, you should know whether you can become an in-state resident for tuition purposes during your 2L and 3L years. (Not sure? Ask the admissions or financial aid office…they will know.)
- Does the law school freeze tuition? If not, factor in a 3-5% increase in tuition each year.
- Cost of living in the law school’s city must be factored in.
Still having trouble deciding? Get back to basics. If you’re truly feeling stuck and can’t decide between two schools, getting back to basics can be surprisingly helpful. Ask yourself:
- What would make me feel confident with my decision? What would tip the scales in one direction or another?
- Looking again at the actual data–your cost of attendance, employment reports, bar passage rates, etc.–is helpful if you want to remove some of the uncertainty or emotional overwhelm. Review this blog post for a helpful resource.
- What is holding me back from choosing X School over Y School? (Have you asked the law school if they can address that concern? If not, do so!)
- What were my observations/thoughts/feelings when I visited each school?
- How would you describe each law school in one sentence? (This can help to clarify what your primary observations are of each one.)
- What is your gut telling you?
Note deadlines and follow the directions. If you’re this far into the law school application process then you already know that following directions is critical! Make sure that you are clear on all of the seat deposit deadlines for schools you are considering, and that you understand how they want you to submit your deposit–and what happens if you don’t do so on time.
In extenuating circumstances, ask for an extension. Did you just get another admission or scholarship offer and need time to consider it in light of other options? You can request a seat deposit extension. Contact the law school and formally (politely) request a seat deposit extension of a few days to a week. Use this judiciously! It’s important to actually use the extended time to make a decision–what is realistically going to change your mind in 3 days or a week? Ask yourself: What can I do with this time to help me feel confident in my decision?
If you are wait listed–deposit somewhere or decide to reapply next year. If you are wait listed at Dream School and hoping that comes through, you must make a careful decision about where else you will deposit. OR you can decide to take your chances with Dream School and reapply to law school next year if you don’t get in from the wait list. However, don’t decide to put no deposits down and expect to attend law school this fall–being wait listed is no guarantee of admission and once the seat deposit deadlines have passed you have forfeited your seat even where you were admitted. If you are still undecided, it’s better to put down a seat deposit and lose that money (if you decide not to attend or get into Dream Law School off the wait list) than have no seat in any law school class this fall.
Be very careful with multiple deposits. Sometimes applicants will decide to put down multiple seat deposits if they still aren’t sure where to attend law school. Here’s what the LSAC has to say about this:
“Applicants should be aware that a law school is not required to maintain an offer of admission if it discovers that the applicant has accepted an offer at another institution. Beginning on May 15 of each year, law schools may be provided with information concerning all enrollment commitments to any law school made by those applicants who have indicated an intention to enroll in that school’s entering class. Applicants should be sure that they understand policies on multiple commitment deposits set by schools to which they have applied.” (http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/misconduct-and-irregularities/what-to-expect?sfvrsn=2).
Submitting multiple seat deposits is a tricky business. Law schools will see all of your seat deposits as of May 15, some schools can retract your offer of admission, the practice is costly and borderline unethical, and it only prolongs the decision process. You have done all the hard work to receive these offers, so take the last step and make your choice.
Withdraw from other law schools. Once you’ve decided where to deposit and followed the directions to do so, you can withdraw from the other law schools where you were accepted. Usually they have a link or webform for this. If not, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a brief, polite email: Dear Law School, Thank you very much for your offer of admission. However, I have decided to attend X Law School and I have submitted a seat deposit there. Sincerely, Applicant
Embrace your choice. You visited, you calculated all the data, you weighed all of your priorities, you thought it over, you talked to law school professionals and students. You made the decision that you decided best suits your priorities. Once you have made that decision, it is time to embrace it and to let go of the “what ifs” to focus on your next steps. You’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity, program, and connection your law school offers to maximize your law school experience. Enter law school with an open mind and embrace all of the opportunities wherever you decide to attend. Remember that this is not really a Right versus Wrong decision…it is a “what is best for YOU” decision.