Here are some actions to consider when deciding on your law school application timing.
1. Consider an Early Decision Application
Many law schools begin accepting applications as early as September 1. Submitting your application early signals that you are enthusiastic about attending and are willing to commit to it. Note: this commitment applies only to early decision applications, not rolling admissions applications (see below). An early decision application may even improve your chances of getting admitted.
- Many factors go into the decision of whether to apply early, including the applicant’s GPA and LSAT scores, the availability of early decision scholarships, and the applicant’s desire to attend that school.
- Typically, applicants apply early to their reach schools, to which they think they have a relatively low chance of being admitted during the “regular” admissions cycle. That said, an early application is not a cheat code that would admit anyone, anywhere. Evaluate your scores, resume, and letters of recommendation in the context of the school to which you’re applying – that early application could be “worth” a couple of LSAT points, but it won’t get you into Yale Law School with a 2.0 GPA.
2. Understand Your Target Law School’s Rolling Admissions Process
Somewhat related to early decision applications are law schools offering a rolling admissions process. Some law schools, most notably Harvard Law School, review applications in batches, in the order in which they are received.
- First decisions from rolling admissions tend to come out around November-December. With these schools, applying late in the process can be dangerous, as it’s possible that all open spots in the class will be filled before the deadline and an otherwise successful candidate will be rejected.
- If there is no reason to delay your application, it’s advised to start working on it.
3. Prepare Supporting Documentation for Your Applications
Even if you don’t plan on applying early, round up your application materials. You may then be surprised with the amount and variety of documentation a typical application requires (let alone 10 of them).
- Research each school’s unique application process and requirements, as well as those of LSAC and your FAFSA application. You’ll find that oftentimes you need to run around and obtain transcripts, letters of recommendation, certificates from your school’s dean, and even your parents’ bank statements. Obtaining all of these documents can be more time-consuming than you would expect.
4. Fine-Tune Your School List
Deciding which law schools to apply to seems easy enough, right? Just apply to the best schools you have a realistic chance to get into, and maybe take geography into account. Simple, right? Wrong—not all law schools are created equal, and that goes beyond their rankings.
- Some law schools are ranked relatively high, but their cross-state mobility may be limited, meaning that alumni typically stay in the school’s region and may encounter difficulties finding employment outside of that region.
- There are law schools that have specialized law programs that far outrank the school’s overall ranking. For example, American University (Washington) is ranked 86th in the country, but its International Law program is one of the best in the U.S., at #8, above powerhouses like UC Berkeley and Duke University. Before applying, do some in-depth research about the schools’ specific programs, journals, and clinics (which will also come in handy when writing your personal statement). Evaluate the schools and your chances of being admitted.
5. Start Thinking about Your Personal Statement
While it may be too early to start writing school-specific statements, this is a great time to start planning for them.
- Reflect on some major events and experiences in your life, how they shaped who you are today, and what about them made you want to go to law school.
- If you want to go the extra mile, start outlining your essay, focusing on one or two of your experiences.
You’ll find that once you do start applying, you’ve already done the hardest part—coming up with a topic and headers, leaving you with the easier task of filling in the blanks.
With all of this information in mind, what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to kick-start your law school application process!