Should You Apply to Law School? A Timeline for Your Decision
September 24, 2022
One of the most common questions that prospective law students ask is When should I apply to law school? It’s no wonder;
the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are many factors to consider, and not all of them pertain to you alone; your decision also depends on the actions of your fellow applicants, and whether or not you think they’ll apply as well (and when).
This timeline shows you when to apply if you’re sure law school is right for you, and when to hold off if you need more time to weigh your options.
The best time to apply
There is no set best time to apply to law school, but applying early and applying before the school’s decision has been made on your application are both great ways to get a leg up.
Early action deadlines are usually October 1 and should be treated as if it were an early decision deadline, so as not to miss this crucial opportunity. Regular action deadlines vary from school to school but typically run from November 15th – January 3rd.
If you are looking at schools that don’t have early or regular admissions periods, one of the best times to apply is during their rolling admissions period which usually lasts until May 1st. The common mistakes in timing law school applications include
The worst time to apply
Too often, law school applicants start too late in the game. When an applicant begins their research after college graduation or when a 1L student has completed a semester of law school, the competition is much more intense.
The further you are into your legal education; the less time you will have to catch up in the upper-level courses. The 2017 entering class at Harvard University has an average LSAT score of 173 and GPAs in the top 6 percent of their respective schools;
nearly all qualified applicants come from traditional feeder schools where they exceptionally study disciplines like law and economics.
Staying ahead of the curve
Deciding when to apply is an important factor in determining your chances of being accepted into law school. Even though law schools are extremely competitive, some factors can work in your favor and may impact when you should start applying.
If you have a competitive LSAT score, a good undergraduate GPA, and the flexibility to take time off from your current job or studies before admission, then you may want to consider applying as early as possible for the upcoming admissions cycle.
However, if these aspects are not necessarily in your favor, or if you’re still trying to find out what area of law is best suited for you, then it might be better to postpone a decision until after finishing up with school and acquiring more relevant experience.
Maximizing chances of admission
One of the most difficult aspects of getting into law school is having a handle on the application timeline.
Where do you start and when should you stop looking at schools and waiting? The answer depends on a few factors. Here’s what you need to know about law school admission, broken down by date:
September-November: Get in contact with schools where you’ve been accepted or waitlisted so they can review your materials before open enrollment deadlines are set in. This will give them more time to make room if they need it.
Once an offer has been made and accepted, most schools require an initial deposit of sorts (usually $50-$100) that lets the school know that someone else would like to be admitted.
What are your goals?
It is important to be mindful of the three main goals of applying: acceptance, scholarship, and experience. If you’re trying to secure acceptance and/or a scholarship at a law school that’s ranked higher than your current school (especially if you’ve been accepted at your current school),
then you may want to wait until after August or September when schools release their TLSAS data on their incoming classes. However, if you need to find out your ranking to know how competitive of an applicant you are, then the application process may be too stressful without any results.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is offered four times a year, in February, June, October, and December. The test consists of five sections: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and two writing tasks. Section one typically contains 28 questions. Sections two through four typically contain 14 questions each.
Section five usually contains 8 multiple-choice questions. When preparing for the LSAT, it’s important to read various articles and books on logic problems to prepare yourself for the analytical reasoning section of the exam.
These are some great resources: Kaplan Full-Length Strategy Guides or McGraw Hill’s Conquering the LSAT Logical Reasoning Review Book.
How many law schools should you apply to?
It depends on how competitive your GPA and LSAT score is, as well as your budget. Plan on applying to a handful of reach schools in addition to the school you’re sure you’ll get into.
If you apply to too many schools within your budget, many will defer your application until the next cycle; so watch out for that!
Applying early decision vs. regular decision
Here are the basics of applying to law school: there are two ways to apply, either early decision or regular decision. If you apply under early decision and get in, you’re obligated to attend that school.
For students with their hearts set on one particular school, this is an attractive option. On the other hand, if you think there’s a decent chance you might want to go elsewhere (which many applicants think),
then going with the regular decision is a better bet. The early decision might cause some frustration later in life when your first choice doesn’t pan out because it’s not your true first choice after all.
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