While your GPA and LSAT scores are important, there's a lot more than your ?hard numbers' that goes into an acceptance decision. Along with preparing a solid application, you've got to make sure you prep for your LSAT on time, take it far enough in advance so that scores can be submitted, and then get your apps in on time.
And that's just the basics! For your apps, you'll need to have all of your requirements ready — transcripts from your undergraduate degree, your LSAT score, recommendation letters, a personal statement, and sometimes more (it depends on the school). All of these must be prepared before or during the law-school application window opens. There are very few schools that accept late applications without extenuating circumstances.
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, and if not accepted, let's you quickly move onto your second picks.
4 Majors Steps for Applying to Law School on Time
Generally, law schools use a rolling admissions process. This 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. This lets them fill up their class bit by bit and allows you to find out if you'll be admitted sooner rather than later,
The rolling admissions process works 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 thinking about your law-school application at least a year before the admission window you're targeting.
These law school steps are outlined in chronological order. Keep in mind, these aren't exact, and different schools have different requirements, so make sure to check the website of your target law schools to be sure about the exact requirements and dates.
1. Commit to the Law School Process
The process of applying for a law school is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, so you don't want to get halfway through the process and realize it's not for you. From starting your prep to getting accepted can take an entire year, and that's all before you start class! This isn't to be taken lightly: the first step is making sure this is something you want to commit to.
2. 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 board offers tests seven times every year. Registration for the exam closes about a month before that specific 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. Keep in mind that you can take the LSAT multiple times (most test prep tutors recommend it), so build that into your schedule.
2. 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.
3. Search for Law Schools and Send Applications
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.
4. Hear Back and Make a Decision!
This last part is key, and now that the hard work is over, it's finally time for you to enjoy your hard work: picking out a school. It's likely that you've gotten rejected from at least one school, and even likelier that you've gotten accepted somewhere. If you're lucky enough to have to make a decision, weigh the pros, cons, and finances. Then, when the time is right (and before their admissions deadline), confirm your decision.
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
You'll want to start preparing for your application well before you actually submit it. These are the steps you should be taking around two years before your enrollment date.
- Research which law schools you'd like to attend. You can use AdmissionsDean or other services.
- 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 2021 if law school begins in 2022.
- Prepare for the LSAT. We advise spending at least six months preparing, with an emphasis on practice tests.
- 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 who might be willing to write recommendation letters on your behalf and contact them.
14 to 12 Months Before Enrollment Date
After 5-12 months of initial prep, these are the next steps to take.
- 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 a 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
Just under a year before your enrollment date, put these tasks on your to-do list.
- 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
Follow these steps with three-quarters of a year before your enrollment date.
- Submit law-school applications and confirm their receipt.
- Finish obtaining financial aid applications.
5 to 7 Months Before Enrollment Date
Next up, take on these tasks.
- 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
After you've been accepted into law school, follow this final step to make sure you're completely ready.
- Prepare for law school. Arrange for housing, books, and other necessities.
4 Law School Application Timeline Tips to Remember
To ensure your application process is as smooth and on-track as possible, keep these vital tips in mind.
1. 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, at the beginning of 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
The Road to Your J.D.
Applying to, getting accepted, and deciding on your future law school is an emotional journey. The key is not to put all your eggs in one basket. You lose little if a school rejects you, but you gain everything if you are accepted.
Apply to some law schools where you surpass their LSAT and GPA requirements (these are your safety schools). Apply to schools whose requirements you've met (target schools), and others whose requirements your scores don't quite meet (reach schools). Compared to tuition, applications are cheap, and a lot of material can be reused from school to school. Take advantage of the options available to you.
Of course, you can only get all these applications done if you're on schedule. 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.