Conditional Law School Admission: Right for You?

In a recent post, we discussed conditional law school admission – what it is, and which schools offer it. To recap, some schools offer conditional admission programs to students who demonstrate potential, but whose applications aren’t strong enough to earn full acceptance in the incoming class.
There are some good things about conditional law school acceptances; namely, they present a great opportunity for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend law school. However, this kind of acceptance does come with its own set of drawbacks.

What to Watch Out for in Conditional Law School Admission Programs

Low full acceptance rate: Many students who attend law school under conditional admission programs don’t ultimately gain admission. At some schools, the success rate is 20%; at other schools; the success rate could be 50%. You can always call admissions offices and ask about your chances of being fully accepted in the following law class. Do your research carefully to ask about how these programs are structured. Some provide students with formal mentorship and academic counseling to help set students up for success. Others let students walk the path on their own. Identify what your needs are, as well as where your academic strengths and weaknesses lie. If you feel you’ll need a lot of help addressing core writing skills (and the program doesn’t have anything in place to help you improve), it might not be the one for you.
Cost: Conditional admission programs come at a cost – often at least $1,000 (and then some). While schools offer financial aid for degree programs, it might be tough to find assistance to cover expenses for conditional admission programs.
Time: If you’re attending a law school under a conditional acceptance, it means that your core academic skills need work. To make improvements, you’ll need to commit to studying either full-time or near full-time. Some conditional admission programs advise against students taking on other classes or employment so students have time to focus on classes.
Lack of credit: Law schools generally do not offer credit for work completed under conditional admission programs. You’ll be spending both time and money on coursework that won’t count toward your law degree.
Reporting requirements for future law school applications: Students who are unsuccessful in earning full acceptance through these programs could need to disclose this information to law schools in a future application cycle.
If you’re set on attending law school, can’t see your career path heading down any other path, and only have conditional law school admission offers, then it might be worth considering one of these programs. However, you should fully understand their pros and cons, especially as they relate to your personal circumstances. If you decide that conditional admission programs aren’t for you, you can always use the next year to retake the LSAT, polish your application materials, and try again in the upcoming admission cycle.
If you have any questions about conditional acceptance, feel free to let us know in the comments!

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2 Responses to Conditional Law School Admission: Right for You?

  1. Eduardo Sotomayor March 27, 2017 at 9:43 AM #

    Hi my name is Eduardo Sotomayor, I have recently been accepted to Charleston school of law in south carolina and got an invitation to Widener Delaware law school conditional program. I plan to practice law in the NJ/NY area when i finish law school. My issue is whether i should choose Charleston school of law or give up my seat and try the conditional program. I feel like i would have more job opportunities at delaware because they have externships in NY NJ PA area and Charleston have interns down south. I would be taking the risk of giving up an acceptance letter to try out the conditional program for widener. Also i was wondering how hard is it to transfer out after your first year at law school. Both schools are similar ranks but If i go to charleston i am not sure how much job opportunities i will have in the NY/NJ area.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 28, 2017 at 7:14 AM #

      Hi Eduardo,

      We are not admissions professionals, so while I will give you some advice, please consult someone who does this for a living or is associated with an academic institution.

      It is risky to take the conditional acceptance, because it is not a guarantee of progress into a program. I understand the reasons you lay out for wanting to go to Widener, but what will you do if you take the conditional place at Widener and don’t gain full acceptance, meaning future law school applications now require you to disclose this fact?

      I know people do transfer, and it would be a safer route for you because it would not lock you out of a candidacy, but it will still take work on your part. A core part of transfer applications is letters of recommendation from professors who have taught you during 1L year, so you will need to make strong relationships with a few professors. Additionally, you will want to build a rich experience of extracurriculars related to law. All of this, of course, in addition to acing your course work.

      Ultimately, the choice is yours! Consult with other trusted advisers, and good luck. 🙂

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