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The Long and Winding Road: 

(Of course it's a song!)
LSAT Accommodations and Fee Waivers

LSAC offers many services for both physically and financially disadvantaged applicants. Unfortunately, they take a lot of time and paperwork. 

  • Begin early.
  • Follow instructions to the letter.
  • Expect a long and challenging battle.

Fee Waivers

Law Services links its discussion of fee waivers to the LSAT, the point at which most applicants start spending money.  You can find that page here.  It outlines three different ways to get a fee waiver:

  1. By completing an online application under the "LSAT" tab on the "My Home" page;
  2. By downloading a bunch of pdf forms and sending them in by snail mail;
  3. Or by completing those same forms and asking any law school's admissions officer to approve a fee waiver for you. 

The online application is linked under "My Account -- Fee Waivers."

fee waiver

  • First you have to eligible -- a citizen or permanent resident, independent of your parents (or else you have to report their income). 
  • Once you click that blue "submit" button at the bottom of the form, you get taken to the page where you put in all the financial info.
  • If your income and assets are low enough, you'll get provisional approval, which is good for 45 days.  If you don't send them supporting tax information via snail-mail by then, you lose your fee waiver. 
  • While you're waiting for the final approval, you can't send any apps.  You CAN send recommendations, transcripts, etc., but they'll only be stored for you, not sent to any schools.

The snail mail form looks like this: 

fee waiver pdf

Notice that any time you have to send a snail mail form to LSAC, you must have a bar-coded printout of some sort to go with it; if you don't, your paperwork won't get processed. 

If you live in an expensive part of the country, you might have your best luck by going the third route, since LSAC tends to use Federal Poverty Guidelines, which are not adjusted for regional differences.

If you're requesting a fee waiver from LSAC, you can register online, but if you're requesting it from a law school admissions officer, you cannot.  You must download paper forms from Law Services, complete them, then send them with the fee waiver request.  After it is approved, you can complete other info online.  But make sure to add two extra weeks for snail mail processing.

I'm Not Eligible for an LSAC Fee Waiver

Sadly, a large number of economically disadvantaged applicants aren't poor enough for an LSAC fee waiver.  I can't  get LSAC to use more liberal fee waiver guidelines, so I did the next-best thing:  I found law schools that let at least some people apply for free without an LSAC fee waiver.  Click here for a list of schools where you might negotiate a free application.  

But Note that a fee waiver or " free" application only waived the law school's portion of the costs. You still have to pay the fee for LSAC to process your transcripts and recommendations, which is $16 per school in 2011.

Special Accommodations

If you have any type of disability you may be entitled to special testing conditions.  People with reading disabilities are often entitled to readers or transcribers; in addition, you may be given extra time. People with any physical disability may be entitled to extra time, either for the test itself or for breaks. People in wheelchairs are often accommodated in private rooms, and extra break time is given to allow the test-taker to use rest rooms and soda machines.

If you want accommodations for a learning disability, you'll need time, paperwork, and money. All the documentation for learning disabilities must be done within three years of your LSAT date, so any tests done when you began college won't count. 

Requesting accommodation is such a complicated process that LSAC has written a whole section and produced a video demo. You can find them here. The process can take so long that you would be best served by beginning the process six months to a year before registering for the LSAT.

If you take the test under special circumstances, Law Services will notify the law schools receiving your score. They will not provide the reason why this was done unless you authorize them to do so. In general, I believe that it helps to include a statement outlining the reason you needed special circumstances and what accommodations were made. It helps the admissions committee evaluate your score, and (should they accept you) gives them time to begin planning to meet your needs once you enroll.

We've received a number of calls from people with learning disabilities who had Law Services deny their requests for testing accommodation -- extra time, special materials, etc. -- because the applicant didn't include sufficient documentation.  Then, when the applicant gets the documentation to them, the deadline has passed, and Law Services denies the request.  

Law Services is very conservative in handing out LSAT accommodations.  Exceptions happen once in a blue moon.  So if you're expecting to get accommodations of any sort for your LSAT start way, way in advance to find out what documentation and testing they require.

Registering -- Finally!

Once you've completed the difficult process of acquiring these special services, the process of registering for the LSAT is painless. You tell the system which LSAT you want to take and where, and it provides you with a list of available test centers.

It's a good idea to either visit the centers or look for info about them on one of the chat boards. Lighting, desk style, vending machines and rest rooms can all make a difference in your comfort and performance on test day.

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