Prepare your law school applications so that they are the best possible, and then apply early to make yourself stand out. Developing a law-school application timeline is key to applying to your desired law school at the right time for best results.
To get into law school, you need to have the requirements ready – transcripts for your undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, recommendation letters, personal statement, and so on. All of these must be prepared before the law-school application window opens.
Having your law-school application timeline is excellent for developing a strategic approach to the application process that maximizes your chances of getting into the school you want. For instance, you can develop a strategic plan that takes advantage of a school’s Early Decision window to boost your chances of being accepted.
Preparing to Apply to Law School on Time
Generally, law schools use a Rolling Admissions process. The process entails a broad time window that lets law schools respond to applications as they come in. The school acts immediately instead of waiting until the end of the entire application window to begin evaluating and processing applications.
The Rolling Admissions process works best to the advantage of applicants who submit their applications at the earliest opportunity. For best results, send your applications as soon as law schools begin receiving them. Apply during the early, less-competitive period when admission boards are less strained, and thus, less strict with the evaluation process.
You need to start preparing your law-school application at least a year before the admission window you’re targeting.
Some of the preparations that should be in place before admissions begin are:
- Prep for the LSAT
The LSAT is a mandatory exam you must take before you can get into law school. You need sufficient time to prepare for the LSAT to ensure passing it with a score that meets the minimum requirement of your desired law school.
The LSAT tests seven times every year. Registration for the exam closes about a month before the exam date. We recommend taking at least six months to prepare and practice for your LSAT. You may require more or less time, depending on the progress of your preparation and results in practice tests.
- Register for CAS
The LSAC provides the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to help law-school applicants assemble their transcript, LSAT scores, and letters of recommendation into a single report. Most ABA-approved law schools require that you use a CAS, which they will contact after receiving your application to get a copy of your information.
Contact your college to request that they send your transcript to CAS. Also contact professors, past employers, or other notable persons to write and send your recommendation letter to the CAS.
- Search for law schools and apply
Find which law schools you have a good chance of getting into based on your LSAT score and GPA. You can use a law school predictor calculator for this. Once you’ve listed a mix of probable schools, send your application to them.
The schools on your list should be a healthy mix of reach, safety, and target/match schools. Also, make sure there’s sufficient time to write the perfect personal statement. Your statement can help convince the admissions boards you are the right candidate for admission.
Using the Law School Application Timeline to Your Advantage
Once you have your law-school application timeline, you can begin preparing accordingly. Below is a sample law-school application timeline:
24 to 19 months Before Enrollment Date
- Research which law schools you’d like to attend. You can use AdmissionsDean and org.
- Shortlist the schools you’d like to attend. Ascertain their minimum requirements and when they’ll start accepting applications.
- Choose when to sit for the LSAT. The ideal time will depend on your circumstances, but we recommend taking it the year before law school resumes. For instance, schedule the test for 2020 if law school begins in 2021.
- Prepare for the LSAT. We advise spending at least six months preparing, especially solving actual old LSATs.
- Register an LSAC account and for the LSAT to get access to LSAC’s Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), a mandatory requirement for most schools. An LSAC account also gives you access to purchase LSAT prep materials, receive LSAT scores by email, apply online to law schools, monitor application status, and more.
- Write up a list of people to write recommendation letters on your behalf and contact them.
14 to 12 months Before Enrollment Date
- Take the LSAT and get scores. If your score isn’t high enough, study and prepare to retake it at the next earliest opportunity.
- Finalize the list of law schools you want to attend. Once finalized, send to the chosen schools a request for information packets and application forms.
- Draft your resume and personal statement.
- Process your transcript and have it sent to LSAC.
- Confirm recommendation letters are ready and ask those recommending you send them to the LSAC.
11 Months Before Enrollment Date
- Finalize your resume and personal statement.
- Request financial-aid applications.
- Get law any school applications you don’t already have.
9 Months Before Enrollment Date
- Submit law-school applications and confirm their receipt.
- Finish obtaining financial aid applications.
5 to 7 Months Before Enrollment Date
- Draft financial aid applications.
- Check law school acceptance status. Evaluate and decide which to accept.
- Evaluate financial aid packages from law schools, the federal government, or private institutions.
- Submit completed financial aid applications.
1 to 2 Months Before Enrollment Date
- Prepare for law school. Arrange for housing, books, and other necessities.
4 Tip for Law School Application Timeline
- Figure out your preferred admission year before the actual enrollment date.
Know when you’d like to start law school to help map out your entire law school application timeline. If your goal is to begin law school immediately after college graduation, begin processing your application, at the latest, in your final year as an undergrad.
Alternatively, if you’d like to work and build your savings before starting law school, begin preparing a year before you’d like to enroll. Note that your LSAT score stays valid for five years after you get the result.
- Take as many LSAT practice tests as you can.
Practicing actual LSAT questions is the best way to prepare for the exam itself. By signing up for an LSAT exam at least a year in advance, you give yourself sufficient time to get ready.
If you take the LSAT exam a year or two before your enrollment, you can retake the exam multiple times until you are satisfied with your score. If you schedule your exam too close to the law-school enrollment date, you may not get opportunities to retake the exam before the enrollment deadline passes.
- Get letters of recommendation ahead of time
The professors or employers you have in mind for letters of recommendation have schedules of their own. To ensure they have enough time to write a glowing recommendation letter, request that they start working on it at least a year before the enrollment date comes around.
Make sure to politely give the writer a deadline for the letter and reminders at reasonable intervals.
Allow enough time to write the letter, revise it, and have it ready long before the day it’s needed. Also, remember that it’s better to get a recommendation letter from someone who knows you enough to craft an inspired and convincing message.
- Note the application open and close dates.
Fall, between September and October, is when most law schools begin accepting applications. Find out when exactly a school starts accepting applications so you can submit early. Take advantage of a school’s binding early-decision option.
Applying early also increases your chances of being favorably considered by schools that employ rolling admissions. If for whatever reason you can’t apply early, know the deadline for applications to avoid missing it. It’s not the ideal time to apply since slots are fewer and the review process becomes more competitive, but it’s better than losing the application window entirely.
Summing It Up
You are likely to get at least one rejection to the law school applications you send out. Send out as many applications as you can to a healthy mix of schools.
Apply to some law schools where you surpass their LSAT and GPA requirements (safety schools). Apply to schools that you’ve met their requirements (target schools), and others that your scores don’t quite meet (reach schools).
The key is not to put all your eggs in one basket, or too few baskets. You lose little if a school whose minimum requirements you don’t meet rejects you, but you gain everything if you are accepted. Exhaust most of your available law school options, so you can pick which school you most prefer from the ones that accept your application.
Of course, all of this only works if you have enough time to pursue it. Work with a law-school application timeline that gives you the time to conveniently process your law school application and get into your most preferred school.