Juggle Commitments, Test Prep Ahead of the LSAT

Shawn P. O'Connor

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q-and-A, a monthly feature of Law Admissions Lowdown that provides admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.

If you have a question about law school, email me for a chance to be featured next month.

This month, I answer questions from applicants who are juggling personal, professional and academic commitments with their LSAT studies.

[Find out which law schools get the most applications.]

Dear Shawn: I am not sure when I should take the LSAT. If I take the June LSAT, I will be able to study abroad in the summer. However, I would have to juggle LSAT classes, regular college classes, work and writing my honors thesis during my final college semester.

If I take the October LSAT, I won't be able to study abroad in the summer because I will need to spend much of it taking LSAT prep classes, but I will have more time to devote to study.

Also, I have received a full scholarship for a LSAT prep class from a very well-known test prep provider, but was told that this company may not be the best choice for LSAT preparation. Should I take it anyway, since it's free, and if I don't feel prepared for June take a course with a different test center for October? -Study Abroad or Study LSAT?

[Figure out whether to take the June or October LSAT.]

Dear Study Abroad or Study LSAT: In the end, your decision comes down to how important attending a top law school versus studying abroad is to you. If you have the chance to partake in a particular study or work experience, it may be worth your while to grab this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most study abroad programs involve classes, cultural immersion and tourism. Those adventures are all fantastic experiences, but keep in mind that you can travel later - perhaps during the summer before you start law school - whereas you only have a limited time to prepare for the LSAT.

Given your commitments in the spring, the summer appears to be a much better time to prepare. You should take the LSAT in October and then apply shortly thereafter.

While it may be tempting to accept your full scholarship to the test prep class you mentioned, I would be cautious about taking free classes from corporate test prep behemoths.

[Choose the right LSAT test prep for you.]

If the class is not taught by a tutor with at least a 172 on the real LSAT and two years of teaching experience, I would pay for a more reputable class. You don't want to get a poor score on your permanent record while trying to save a few bucks.

I had a student come to Stratus Prep after a free course like the one you described. She was scoring in the mid 140s which never would have gotten her into the schools she was targeting. With Stratus Prep's LSAT and law admissions help she scored in the 170s and is now at a top five school.

Another reason to not take a less-reputable course first is that it may teach you bad habits that you will then have to unlearn in order to reach your full potential. Best of luck! -Shawn

Dear Shawn: I'm taking the LSAT in June. I took an exhaustive prep class last year, but because of work pressure, I wasn't able to finish. I wasn't happy with my average score and decided to postpone.

I'm hoping to get 171 or higher, but I find it difficult balancing my job (which I love) and my LSAT prep.

Would you recommend that I pay to repeat the course or just self-study since I already have the books and methods? Would you recommend that I hire a private tutor instead of or concurrently with a course? -Seeking Balance

[Stay focused on LSAT test day with these tips.]

Dear Seeking Balance: It is certainly common for LSAT students with full-time jobs to have trouble keeping up with the course work because of time constraints. I do not, however, recommend that you pay to take another course.

At Stratus Prep, we allow our clients to repeat the course for free as often as they want. You may want to ask if your provider offers a similar option, though unfortunately many companies charge at least half the original price to repeat the class.

I would recommend either a live or virtual LSAT tutor to help keep you on schedule and fill in the gaps in your preparation. You tutor should have scored in the 99th percentile on the real exams and have at least two years of teaching experience.

Also, be sure that your private tutor will work around your schedule as you are a busy professional. If you can't find such a tutor locally, consider a virtual tutor - I tutor students from Paris to Palo Alto.

I am confident that you can excel on the LSAT and still thrive at the job you love. Good luck! -Shawn