Applying to law schools is a stressful process, especially when you consider everything that needs to be done before you can actually submit your applications. It can be overwhelming to look at all the necessary tasks, not knowing where to begin or what to prioritize.
Fortunately, we are here to help you out with a breakdown of the law school application timeline. In this article, you will learn when certain application steps should be met, understand how to approach law school applications, and will be able to customize the timeline to your individual needs, making for a confident law school application cycle.
When Do Law School Applications Open?
Most law schools don't open their applications until the fall. Usually, applications open between early August and early September, with some opening in October. The majority of students aim to submit their applications between late August and late December.
Applications for law school are reviewed on a rolling basis, meaning that applications are evaluated constantly until the deadline is reached. This is done to give all applicants a fair chance of applying, but it doesn't hurt to get your application in early, as there are more chances for merit scholarships the earlier you apply and get accepted into a law school. You can read more about the rolling admissions process here.
Law School Application Timeline
This sample law school application timeline can help you understand what is required each step of the way and can help inspire you to create your own customized application timeline.
10 to 15 Months Before Applying
These steps can be completed between 10 and 15 months before your decided application date. You can always take more time to prepare, but you should start these steps at least 10 months before you want to submit your applications.
Start Researching Law Schools
The first and one of the most important steps of applying to law school is to research which schools you would be most interested in applying to. Spend time on the school's website reading about their law program, student opportunities, and admissions requirements.
Then, get a sense of the type of LSAT score required by your chosen schools and start making a list of schools you want to apply to. This can help you focus your applications and may even help direct your LSAT studying. You can learn more about choosing law schools here.
Begin LSAT Prep
The LSAT is required when you are applying to any law school, so you should make sure you give yourself enough time to study the material and become familiar with the test. LSAT preparation courses can help you in your studying, as can private tutors, workbooks, and YouTube videos.
Make sure that you are targeting your testing weaknesses and working to improve them, as this is usually the best way to bring up your overall score. Of course, the higher the score you are trying to achieve, the longer you will likely need to study.
In general, between 150 and 300 hours of LSAT preparation is recommended. The top end of this range is typically most appropriate for test-takers who are completely unfamiliar with the LSAT or who want to score in the upper 160s and 170s.
Become Involved With Prelaw Activities
While you are still a fair amount of time away from actually submitting your applications, it can be a good idea to become involved with prelaw activities and other extracurriculars that can help you prepare for law school.
If you are still in undergraduate school, join activities on campus that aim to prepare students for careers in law. If you have graduated, you can start looking for internship and mentoring opportunities with local legal professionals.
No matter if you are in college or not, you can start reaching out to current and graduated law students at the schools you are interested in. This can be a great way to make connections and learn more about their experience with law school.
7 to 8 Months Before Applying
Approximately 7 to 8 months before you start submitting law school applications is when you will be required to do the most preparation work.
If you are in college, this time period typically falls between the summer of your junior and senior year. If you have graduated already, this will take place in the spring or early summer of the year you wish to submit your applications.
Here are your primary tasks during this time.
Register for the LSAT
Registering for and taking the LSAT is an essential step that needs to be completed at least 7 to 8 months before you submit your applications. It is a good idea to take the summer administrations of LSATs, as these give you ample prep time from the beginning of the year and allow you to receive your testing score before the application cycle opens.
You should also keep in mind the possibility of retakes and take the LSAT as early as possible, just in case you need to take it again and achieve a higher score. You can read all about how to register for the LSAT and the fees required for registration on the LSAC's website here.
Register for the CAS
After you have taken the LSAT, you will need to register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This is a service that is accessed through the LSAC and how you will actually send your application to all of your chosen law schools. Most schools require you to send your score report, letters of recommendation, and transcripts to them using this service, so registering for the CAS is an essential step in your application process.
It costs $195 to register an account with the CAS, and this account will remain active for 5 years. Every time you send a law school report to a school that includes your score, transcript, and recommendation letters, you will need to pay a $45 fee in addition to the application fee that your chosen law school requires.
Fee waivers are occasionally available for students who meet certain requirements.
Inquire About Letters of Recommendation
Around the time that you take your LSAT, you should start speaking to professors or other important individuals in your life about the possibility of receiving a letter of recommendation. Instructors who have known you over your undergraduate career are a good choice, but other professional letters of recommendation are also accepted.
You will need between 1 and 3 letters for most schools, and the person that you ask to write your letter should be someone who can attest to your skills, character, and general ability to succeed in law school.
Finalize Your Law School Application List
Once you have taken the LSAT and spent some time thinking about your law school applications, you should have a better idea of which law schools you want to apply to and your general chances of admission.
You can use this tool to help give you an idea of your admissions prospects, but keep in mind this is just an estimate, and you should not base any important decisions on the results received.
Finalize your law school application list and take time deciding which schools you wish to apply to first, as more of a priority, and which schools you can apply to later.
4 to 6 Months Before Applying
The last 4 to 6 months before you start submitting your applications are likely to be very busy.
During this time, you will need to start creating the rest of your application materials and putting the pieces of your application together into one organized package.
Start Writing Your Personal Statement
In addition to your LSAT score, a personal statement is required for law school applications.
It is important that your personal statement is well-written, concise, and presents a complete picture of you as an applicant. This statement is your chance to tell the admissions committee your motivations for wanting to attend law school and what you will be able to add to their entering 1L class.
You want your personal statement to help you stand out, but you should avoid being overly dramatic, including unnecessary examples or stories, and adding too much creative writing into it. Storytelling is ok, to an extent, but your statement needs to be based on facts and reality and should not contain fabricated content.
If you want to learn more about writing a successful personal statement, you can read this article here.
Create a Law School Resume
The resume is often an overlooked part of your law school application, but it is just as important as the rest of your application materials. Your resume is an easy way to sum up your experience and achievements and is often the first thing an admissions officer will look at.
To make a good impression, you want to revise your resume to make sure it looks professional, clearly lists your experiences and skills, and is completely error-free.
Understand Individual Application Requirements
Oftentimes law schools have additional application requirements that need to be submitted along with the base materials of your LSAT score, personal statement, and resume. These can range from things like Yale's 250 word required essay or an essay prompt that asks you to write why you want to attend that law school in particular.
Make sure to understand these individual requirements and budget enough time to finish everything properly before turning in your application. It may help you to make a list of requirements for each law school application you are submitting so you can stay on top of things and keep yourself organized.
Craft a Diversity Statement and Any Addendums
In addition to your base application materials and any individual essays required by a law school, you may also need to write a diversity statement or an addendum to your application.
Diversity statements are a good option for students who feel their background makes them an especially good candidate for a particular school and can be a good chance to tell their unique story.
Addendums, such as those for character and fitness or extenuating circumstances, are a way to add a short explanation for something that an admissions officer might see as problematic on your application. These are usually used for lower grades in undergraduate due to life circumstances or to explain a potential offense on your record. You can read more about when addendums are necessary here.
Budget for Application Costs
Applying to law school can be expensive, especially after having to pay for and take the LSAT. Each application will cost you at least $45 ? thanks to the CAS fee ? and most law schools' applications will cost between $25 and $150 for you to submit. Budget wisely for these costs in the month leading up to submitting your applications so you can be sure to afford everything you want to apply to.
Occasionally, law schools will provide you with fee waivers that will waive the cost of the application fee and sometimes the cost of the CAS fee as well. If you feel you qualify for a fee waiver, you can reach out to your chosen law schools' admissions offices and inquire after one. There is no penalty for asking, and it could save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
Leave Ample Application Time
It will probably take you much longer than you think to complete any required essays in addition to your base application materials. You should make sure to leave enough preparation time after your LSAT test and before you plan to submit your applications so you can proofread, double-check, and complete each requirement to the best of your ability.
Admissions committees will be able to tell when you didn't give your best effort or rushed an application, so if you want to be taken seriously as a candidate, make sure to start on your application materials well ahead of time.
After Applications Open
As soon as applications open, you should have a good idea of which schools you will be applying to first, and all aspects of your application should be ready to go. There are just a final few steps to take before you're ready to submit.
Proofread and Finalize Your Essays
Before applications open, you should have written and crafted your application to perfection. Shortly before submitting your application, it is a good idea to give one final proofread and finalize your essays, resume, and any other application materials.
This can help you catch any small errors last minute; you want your application to be as error-free and professional as possible in order to make a good impression on the admissions committee.
Take Care With Your Applications
As you start submitting your applications, work diligently through your drafted list of law schools to apply to. Take your time with each application, double-checking that all attachments are uploaded correctly, there are no major or minor errors, and that you are representing yourself to the best of your ability.
It is easy to get carried away submitting many applications at once, but this increases your chances of making a mistake, sending the wrong documents, or uploading an error-filled application. You owe it to yourself and to the law school to slow down and take care with each application you submit.
Congratulations, you're now ready to submit!
After Your Application Is Submitted
Once your law school applications are submitted, you can relax a little bit while you wait for the results of your hard work. During this time, there are some additional preparations you can make to get yourself fully ready for law school.
Wait for Admissions Decisions
Waiting can be the hardest part of any law school application cycle. While waiting to hear back on the status of your applications, try not to overthink things. Relax, be proud of your hard work thus far, and don't worry too much.
Most law schools will start sending out decisions around 2 months after an application is submitted, but this time may be shorter or longer depending on the school, and the time of year you submitted the application.
If you haven't heard back from a school within 3 months of submitting your application, you may want to send a letter of continued interest to demonstrate that you are still invested in attending that particular school. These letters are also a good idea if you have been waitlisted by a school.
Begin Scholarship Negotiations
After you are admitted into a few law schools, scholarship offers should follow shortly afterward. When receiving scholarships from law schools, it is appropriate to try and negotiate your scholarship upwards and to use a scholarship from one school to bargain with another.
You should wait for most of your proposed scholarship amounts to be given before starting negotiations, though. This will give you the best sense of what you are working with and what your negotiation limits are. You can read more about the art of negotiating scholarships in this article here.
Start to Prepare for Your 1L Year
Even after completing your law school applications and admissions, the preparation doesn't stop. After you have been accepted into law schools (and maybe even put down your deposit at one or two schools), you can start to prepare for your 1L year.
Your first semester of law school is guaranteed to be full of reading, studying, and legalese, so you should work on building up your familiarity with reading legal works, legal writing, and general first semester subjects. The best way to do this is through a 1L preparation course or by speaking to current 1L students about what to expect from law school.
Additionally, 1 to 2 months before law school starts, you should be tying up any loose ends and preparing yourself for a move to your law school. Try to secure housing ahead of time that is on or nearby campus and get settled in before orientation begins, as this is the best way to decrease your stress going into your first week of law school classes.
What About Early Decision Applications?
Submitting an early decision application can greatly speed up your timeline in certain scenarios. Early decision applications are typically due by November at the latest and are often binding decisions, meaning that if you are accepted with early decision, you are obligated to withdraw your applications to all other law schools.
Early decision applications can be a good option if there is one law school you absolutely want to attend above all others, but if you want to see what's out there and go with the best admissions offer, you may want to stay away from early decision. You can get more information about this process here.
When Is the Latest You Can Reasonably Apply to Law School?
Even though law school applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, it is not a good idea to wait until the last possible minute before applying. The earlier you apply to your chosen schools, the more likely it is that you will be accepted and that you will receive a larger amount of scholarship money; when a law school has more seats open, the admissions committee is typically more lenient and more generous overall.
That being said, applications to law schools generally stay open until late March or early April, with most schools closing their applications in early March.
February is thought of as the latest you should apply to a school, and you absolutely shouldn't apply later than early March unless absolutely necessary, as your chances of acceptance and scholarships are very low at this point. If possible, you may want to wait until the next cycle to apply to law school instead of applying later than early March.
Your Journey to Law School
The journey to law school is not an easy one, but it is one that is packed with many different application requirements and lots of hard work.
When getting ready to apply to law school, you should craft your application timeline around personal factors in your life while being sure to leave enough time to fully complete every admissions requirement. Do this, and you are sure to submit your law school applications with confidence and the organization fitting of a prime law school candidate.