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Can You Defer Law School Admission?

March 13, 2024
4 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 3/13/24

Can you defer law school admissions? Why should someone defer law school? Keep reading as we explore and discuss options for law school deferrals.  

You get accepted into the law school of your choice, but then you realize that, for one reason or another, you cannot start your semester on the expected date. What exactly can you do?

If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few options you can take. Firstly, if you haven’t applied yet, you can consider taking a gap year to prepare for law school. You could also enroll part-time to alleviate some of the academic rigor of the notoriously demanding law school. 

You also have the option to request to defer your law school admission. Keep on reading to learn why someone might want to put off starting law school and how to go about it.

Can You Defer Law School Admission?

Yes, you can request to defer a law school admission. The wording here is important to note: you can request a deferral, but it does not mean you will automatically be granted one. 

As you make your request, keep in mind that the time frame for most deferrals is a year or two. If your request is granted, it means you will begin enrollment at a later date. For example, if you were admitted into a school to begin in September, you can request to defer your enrollment until September of the following year. 

Check-in with your school to see if they accept deferral requests. Not every school allows deferrals, but the good news is that most law schools do. 

It’s essential to keep in mind that schools don’t have to accept your request. Don’t assume you will receive a deferral because there is a chance that your college will deny your request. If this happens, you have the option to withdraw from the program and reapply to schools again when you are ready. 

How Does Law School Deferral Work?

After you have been accepted into the school and reviewed the deferral process, you can begin to write your formal request. 

Remember, the sooner you submit a request, the better. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for a deferral unless you have an unexpected emergency.  

Reasons for a Law School Deferral

Law school is not easy, and you will want to be in the best mindset to focus on your studies to ensure your success in your program. 

There are many unexpected reasons why people delay starting graduate school. Most applicants wait months to hear whether they have been accepted into a school. This is a significant amount of time, and things can pop up unexpectedly that change your situation. 

If you are not ready to start at the expected date of admission, then consider requesting a deferral.

Some reasons to defer law school include the following: 

  • Sickness/medical issues 
  • Personal injury 
  • Family issues
  • Employment commitments 
  • High tuition costs and fees 
  • Finishing another degree 

While your deferral acceptance is not guaranteed, it is better to wait until you are in a better position to begin law school.

How to Defer Law School Admission

If you need to request a deferral, check your letter of acceptance. Your letter should outline the school’s deferral policies and procedures. If not, reach out to a representative at the school and ask for information on the deferral process. 

Do not apply to or attend other schools if you receive a deferral. This practice is considered disrespectful and even unethical. Doing this can result in issues during your State Bar review.

FAQs: Law School Deferral

Still have questions about deferring your law school acceptance? We’ve got you covered. We answer some frequently asked questions about deferrals below. 

1. Can You Defer Admission to Harvard Law School?

Yes, you can defer admissions to Harvard Law School. According to their website, the school usually allows you to defer if you have time-sensitive academic or employment commitments. 

The school limits its deferrals to a year or two. In very exceptional cases, they can extend the deferral period. 

2. What is the Best Reason to Defer an Admission?

There is no one best reason to defer admission. Most schools review deferral requests on a case-by-case basis.

However, U.S. News states unexpected circumstances that make it difficult for a student to attend law school immediately or once-in-a-lifetime academic or professional opportunities are the two main reasons to defer law school. Deferral requests with either one of these reasons are most likely to be accepted. 

Law school tuition and fees can be costly and demanding for students. Some people may want to defer their offer if they need help paying for school. If this is the case, look at schools with low tuition rates and apply to as many law school scholarships as possible. 

3. Is it Hard to Defer Law School?

It’s easy to request a deferral for law school in most cases. Schools will ask for a written letter reasoning why you need a deferral, and you may have to provide proof of your reasoning (job offer, medical note from a doctor, etc.). 

The hardest part of the deferral process is getting approved. Most schools only award a few deferrals each year, so there is a chance you will not get your request approved. However, be honest about your situation and get your deferral request in sooner than later, and you will likely get your deferral. 

Final Thoughts

Circumstances out of our control can happen at any time, and your circumstances may change drastically from when you applied to when you received your acceptance letter. 

You are not obligated to go to school if you are not ready, and there is nothing wrong with requesting a deferral. Law school is neither cheap nor easy, so you want to ensure you are in the right mindset to succeed when you begin your semester. 

Best of luck!

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