Deferring Law School

Many law school applicants have heard of deferring, but few know anything about the practice. In order to make applicants more aware of this process, we have outlined exactly what deferring is, how it works, and what you should know about it.

What is Deferring?

Deferring is a process by which accepted law school applicants can delay matriculation to a law school for a year or longer, without having to reapply when they are ready to begin taking courses. By deferring admission to a law school, applicants effectively accept the admissions offer, delay their first year of classes, and guarantee that their space is held for them until the following year.

How Deferring Works

The typical process of receiving a deferment is outlined below:

  1. You must be accepted for admission at the law school in question. Note: your admissions offer must still be valid at the time of your deferment request. For example, if the deposit deadline to hold your seat passes and you have neither paid the deposit nor made a deferment request, the option to defer or even enroll is typically no longer valid.

  2. While holding a valid admission offer from the school, you make a formal written request for deferment to the school’s admissions office. This request must include a valid reason for deferment, such as sickness, personal issues, employment commitments, delays to a degree currently in progress, or financial constraints.

  3. Your request for a deferment is not automatically granted by the school, and your request can be rejected. If the request is rejected you have two choices: either enroll for the upcoming semester, or relinquish your hold on a seat and reapply when you are ready to start school. If your deferment request is granted, you must typically take the following steps:

    • Make a non-refundable seat deposit. This deposit usually ranges from $300-$1000.
    • Pay a non-refundable processing fee (this varies somewhat by school).
    • Sign an agreement stating that you will not enroll at another law school, accept a deferment offer from another law school, or apply to another law school.

Important Notes

  • Students who are granted a deferral request will typically be allowed to defer for only one year; very few schools allow longer deferments.

  • Students who are accepted off of a waitlist typically do not have the option to request a deferment.

  • Receiving a deferment is rare in most cases; in fact, some schools offer only 5 to 10 deferments per year.

  • Accepting a deferment and then applying to another school or enrolling at another law school is looked upon as unethical and can cause serious problems during your State Bar review and inquiry.

  • If you choose to defer for a year or more, make productive use of the time off. Focus on something that will help clarify your legal career goals. For example, if you are interested in environmental law but are not unsure as to whether you would enjoy it as a long-term career, get a job related to environmental law in order to clarify your objectives in law school.

  • If you know that you are going to attempt deferment to pursue further work experience, hold off on applying until you are actually ready to attend school. An applicant who has some post-graduate work experience is generally viewed as more stable and worldly than a graduating senior, thereby giving the working applicant a better chance of admission.