Many law-school hopefuls in Washington are leaving the District Saturday to take the Law School Admission Test because all test centers in D.C. were filled nearly three months before the registration deadline.
All the spots for LSAT centers in D.C. were filled in May. Registration for the September exam opened in January with a registration deadline of Aug. 29. The five schools administering the test include Georgetown, Catholic and Howard universities and the American University and University of the District of Columbia law schools.
There is high demand for taking the exam in D.C., said Wendy Margolis, director of communications for Law School Admissions Council, which administers the test. The concentrated population of students in Washington is a key factor, she said, which explains why cities like New York have similar demand for the four-hour LSAT.
“D.C. is a center of education and of law,” Margolis said.
Universities in Maryland and Northern Virginia offering the test had spots available closer to the test date, but most are not easily accessible for students without cars.
“We locate people less or much less then 100 miles away if we can’t fit them in,” Margolis said. She said she did not know how many D.C. students will take the LSAT 100 miles or more outside of the District.
She added that LSAC would consider opening more test sites if the numbers warranted it, but officials have not yet seen it as a significant problem.
Senior Liz Boudris said she is taking the test in La Plata, Md., because there was no space available in D.C. when she registered in May.
“It’s definitely been a little stressful because most kids who go to school in a city like this don’t have a car, and my site isn’t Metro-accessible,” Boudris said.
Boudris said she found a friend to drive her to the test site the night before and she will sleep in a hotel.
“It’s really the only way to do it . because a lot of things can happen at night in a dorm room – especially on a Friday night.”
Senior Mackenzie Keyser, who registered for the test in June, couldn’t find spots available in D.C. and is taking the test at University of Maryland, College Park. She said all of her friends taking the test have run into the same problem.
“I don’t know anyone that is taking it in D.C.,” she said.
Keyser said traveling to take the LSAT would probably affect student performance because they are “thrown into a new setting that they aren’t familiar with.”
GW pre-law adviser Michael Gabriel said he does not think the lack of LSAT availability in D.C. is a significant issue.
“From what I’ve seen, the problem is as much one of people not registering for the LSAT early enough,” Gabriel said. “Students seem to have unrealistic expectations about the meaning of a deadline. Applying close to a deadline does not ensure you optimal consideration, whether it is to take the LSAT or applying to law schools.”
Steve Marietti, program manager for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, recommends students “register early and evaluate the different test sites before hand.”
The September test is the most popular of the four dates, Margolis said. The other tests are in February, December and June. Students and officials said the September test is preferred because it gives students time to retake the exam if their score is low and it allows for early application to law schools.
Senior Chris Hall, who is taking Saturday’s LSAT at American, said he is upset that GW isn’t offering the test on campus, when five other D.C. universities have the exam.
“Considering how prestigious our law school is and how many students go on to law school after graduation,” Hall said, “it’s irresponsible that we don’t offer them here.”
Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for Academic Planning, wrote in an e-mail that he had “no information regarding the offering or ‘not offering’ of the LSAT at GW.” Officials in GW’s Academic Affairs department and the Law School weren’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.