Law School Discussion

want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply

hi all-
i was over on the pre-law board, but realized they can't provide the kind of answer i'm looking for.  pre-law can only speculate about the realities of law school.

i am 28 years old and completely support myself.  i have been working mostly fulltime and attending undergrad mostly fulltime for the last 5 years. i graduate this may and will have a 3.5 or a little higher. 

i'm thinking about waiting a year to apply to law school so i can work for a year and get some of the debt i've incurred as an undergrad under control.  i have some medical bills and some utilities from a former apt.  these are unpaid and affect my ability to get loans without a cosigner.  i don't have a cosigner because my mom had to file for bankruptcy after a messy divorce. my uncle might co-sign for me, but i'm not sure.  there's some weird family issues between my mom and the rest of the family that unfortunately affect me. you think they'd be happy i'm the first to not only go to college, but to graduate from it as well. my mom can probably have the ability to cosign soon, but probably not for the amounts i'd need to go to a good school, especially since i wouldn't be able to work for the first year.

i thought about applying to part time programs, but i noticed that many schools don't offer the same types of aid to PT students.  i really need the fin aid.

i noticed that many schools allow a one-year deferral. is wanting to get my finances in order a reasonable reason for deferment?  should i go ahead and apply now for fall 2008 and see what sort of aid i get and then decide at that point if i'm going to wait a year?

i'd like to hear from those in law school or who have graduated. i know i'm only going to be that much older when i graduate from law school, but when i'm 33, i'll still be 33 whether i waited a year to go or not.

i want to make sure that i have enough money to go to the best school i can afford.

thoughts?  i check this board often, so please feel free to ask any questions if you want clarification on my situation.


Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2007, 11:09:40 AM »
Wait the year, and get your finances under control.  I don't think I would apply now and defer.  You will be especially upset if you request a deferral and don't get it.  (I deferred a year to earn a bit more money, and don't regret it, but I was lucky to get the deferral...I hear that some schools only do deferrals for those who were at the "top" in numbers but if you are in the bottom 25%, a deferral isn't guaranteed)

Is there a compelling reason for you to apply now? 

Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2007, 11:16:40 AM »
well, i'd like to apply now because i want to leave my hometown area after i graduate. i think i can get a higher paying job in my field (communications) in a larger area (i'm in south central PA, near Harrisburg). i'd really like to attend a school in the dc area so i'd like to move down there. i'm thinking even though there are a lot more people there, there are a lot more entry level/first job out of college positions. i've been looking on monster to get a feel for it.

heck, i could probably bartend or serve 3 nights a week in DC and make a killing. 

i'd really like to move to the area in which i'll attend law school so i can get the "newness" out of it before i have to spend my first year there hitting the books all the time :)   

i didn't realize deferments were hard to get. i guess those stats should be available from the schools i'm looking at.
i'll have to look into that.

thanks for your reply!

Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2007, 11:19:15 AM »
Well, that makes sense.  Good plan! 

Schools aren't going to make deferral info available, because I don't think they want you to defer.  It creates even more uncertainty in the process of getting a 1L class together.  However, if you know you want to go to a DC school, and you have a good enough LSAT to get into one, go for it.  The worst that could happen is that the turn down your deferral request, and you have to reapply the following year. 

Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2007, 11:24:18 AM »
i'm retaking the lsat in december.  i got a 153 without a lot prep in june.  but i know i can do much better.  i've been doing the practice tests etc and going through the powerscore books. 

my mom and boyfriend are urging me not to wait a year for their own reasons, but i figure, hey this is the rest of my life and big $$$ and time commitment, so i want to make sure i do it right.

thanks for your advice!


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Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2007, 12:10:24 PM »
I think you should just wait a year to apply. Move to DC when you graduate from undergrad and get a job there. Then, apply in Fall 2008 for Fall 2009 admissions.

It's silly to request a deferral when you know now that you want to wait a year. One year of work experience won't add anything terribly substantial to your application, but the fact that you have been working full time with school, and that you're a little older, will make you interesting, provided your LSAT is decent.

I'm your age and I'm a 1L. You'll be fine. Most of the 1L students are traditional age-- 22-24, but there are a decent number in our year who are mid 20's-30's ... in addition to the 2L's and 3L's.

Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2007, 02:41:32 PM »
thanks, julie!

i'm glad no one's jumping all over me for wanting to wait. the pre-law side is pretty ansty about stuff like that!

it seems like there are a lot people going to law school when they are older. it makes more sense to have some life experience and not do the high school -> UG -> LS thing. 

if you don't mind my asking, where do you go? i'm asking since your post says there are a fair amount of nontrads where you attend.


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Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2007, 03:33:01 PM »
I'm at UF. It's very much a college town-- the whole city of Gainesville practically shuts down for football and the home games.

It's funny. You really can't tell how old people are. In the first few weeks of school, every time I would meet a non-trad, we would chat for a moment, and then we would realize we were around the same age and I'd hear someone laugh and say, "Oh thank god I am not the only one."

But I have met some recent grads who are very mature, too, and whom I really enjoy spending time with... and some "older students" who act like they're back at the frat house again. It really is what you make of it. I haven't involved myself too much in the social scene, b/c it is a college town and that's just not my social preference at 28. But there are more age-appropriate activities here, if you look for them!

I think you will find more older students if you attend law school in a more metropolitan area, though, whether or not you are in a part time program. Part of me wishes I had done that. Most people don't want to uproot themselves, even if it is for a full time program, once they hit their late 20s-- purely because they have settled in an area, may have established roots, family, children, etc., and are coming back to school specifically b/c they want to serve that same community in a new capacity.

Anyway, just wait to apply. There's no fire. You have your entire life to to work and go to school, or both. Why not take a year out of the classroom to clear your head? I know so many recent grads in my section who are enjoying law school, but are still feeling burnout from undergrad, whereas the ones who worked for a bit had time to recharge and reaffirm their desire for a career as a lawyer. Who knows? You may work for a year, and realize that you aren't interested in a law career anymore-- if you move to DC, you could get involved with working for a nonprofit or a think tank and get all of the public policy and legal issues your heart desires-- without having to take 3 years and another $100K to get you to where you want to be. Or you might decide to go after a graduate degree in public policy, governmental affairs, etc. Or maybe you'll get a job on the Hill, apprentice with a lobbyist, get a job at a PR firm-- really, the possibilities are endless.

Don't rush into another degree yet. Live your life and broaden your horizons. Law school will always be there, but some opportunities just won't. Take advantage.


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Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2007, 04:40:06 PM »
Take a year off and work in your field.  Get your debts under control and see if you still want to go. 

Re: want to hear from current students/grads about waiting a year to apply
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2007, 06:13:48 AM »
I would definitely wait a year if I were you.

First, you need to retake the LSAT and get a higher score. DC area schools are competitive and a 153 isn't going to cut it. Actually, you might want to look into establishing MD residency. Both UMaryland and UBalt offer in-state tuition to residents. If you can't get into GW or GULC, I'd recommend both of those with in-state tuition over a more expensive private school in the DC area.

Catholic and American aren't really worth the money for the job opps they provide for the average student without substantial UNCONDITIONAL merit aid. Tuition at Howard (the HBCU law school) is lower, and probably worth it, but unless you are an Under Represented Minority you are not likely to be admitted there. UDC's rep is so bad that I can't recommend it unless you get in-state tuition AND know you want to open a solo practice after law school and have the means to do so.

In the real world (not the prelaw board) the rankings mean very little beyond the top 25 or so schools. The difference between a third or fourth tier school and a school ranked #64 isn't that great in terms of employment opportunities.  Most law students do not get six figure jobs right out of law school or in the first few years of practice. Trying to pay off nearly $200,000 of law school loans plus other debt on a $40-50K salary isn't going to be fun. Do not be fooled by the salary stats law school publish in their brochures or the stats in USNews. So what I'm saying is, if you can't get into a top school, look into schools where you can get in-state tuition and/or establish residency near where you want to go to school.

Look at this article if you haven't already:

Second, find a way to get your credit in order to qualify for a GRAD PLUS loan on your own. Most people don't do private loans for the amounts above Staffords (which are limited to $20,500) any more because the Federal Grad Plus usually offers better rates (which are locked in, not variable) and more lenient repayment terms. The credit requirements aren't as high as private loans but they aren't super easy either. You need to talk to a financial aid professional and a lender and find out exactly what you need to do in order to qualify. Cosigners are also options with these, but if you have family issues, you might want to get the loan by yourself.

Reason: you do not want to get through three years of law school and then not be able to cover your bar exam expenses (BARBRI,state fees, rent while studying,etc.) because your credit won't qualify you for a bar expense loan ..which is always private - fed loans don't cover these expenses. You will likely need one as well because unless you go to one of the top schools (top 15 or so) or finish first year at the very top your class IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you will get a job before graduation that will cover your bar exam expenses. You also don't want to drop out of law school after a year or two because the person who cosigned before refuses to cosign or can't cosign for the next year.

Third: Check out this website, it may help you with your credit issues.