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Intent on Attending Law School? Consider a Junior Deferral Program

If you’ve always been intent on attending law school, a junior deferral program might make sense for you.

Junior deferral programs typically allow students to apply to law school during their junior year of undergrad. If admitted, a student must commit to defer their offer of admission for at least two years once they’ve completed their undergraduate degree. A number of top law schools offer such programs, including Harvard and Columbia.

Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach and contributor at U.S. News, recently broke down the “must-knows” on junior deferral programs and offered advice for applicants who may be interested.


It’s important to note that junior deferral programs aren’t for everyone. Such programs are designed for students who are intent on attending law school as decisions are often binding and admissions is highly competitive.

“Most students tend to perform better in later years of college, once they’ve found their groove,” Kuris says. “With more time, they can more easily form connections that lead to strong letters of recommendation and gain the work experience that law school admissions officers value. However, some applicants with strong grades and clear goals may wish to apply to law school earlier. These are the applicants that are best fit for deferral programs.”

Law schools typically don’t have a major requirement for deferral programs—and most encourage applicants from every academic discipline to apply.

Harvard Law frames the issue this way. “There are no fixed requirements with respect to the content of pre-legal education. The nature of a candidate’s college work, as well as the quality of academic performance, are reviewed in the selection process. However, in preparing for law school, a broad college education is usually preferable to one that is narrowly specialized. The Admissions Committee looks for a showing of thorough learning in a field of your choice, such as history, economics, government, philosophy, mathematics, science, literature or the classics (and many others), rather than a concentration in courses given primarily as vocational training.”


Law schools typically like to see applicants who can clearly communicate how they plan to spend their two-year deferral period. Thus, it’s important to have a plan in place prior to applying.

“Most commonly, participants complete a service program like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or Teach for America, or work with a consulting firm, bank, law firm or technology company,” Kuris says. “They might also start a business, complete military service, do political advocacy or pursue any other kind of work.”

“The requirement to submit such a plan for after graduation should not be treated as an afterthought,” Kuris adds. “If you don’t have a concrete plan in mind, then apply during the regular admissions cycle rather than submit a vague or hastily sketched plan.”

Sources: US News, Harvard Law School

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