Law School Application Timeline: 5 Things To Know
Law School Application Timeline: 5 Things To Know: There’s a specific law school application timeline you need to have on your radar. It’s important you know what deadlines and benchmarks exist so that you can prepare accordingly. It’s never too early to start planning, so here’s what you need to know to get started!
Law School Application Timeline: 5 Things To Know
1. Determine your year of enrollment.
The first question to ask yourself is when do you want to enroll in law school. This will largely dictate your law school application timeline. If you want to enroll in law school immediately after graduation then you should start preparing your application in your junior or senior year (at the latest).
However, if you want to work for a few years before applying, then you have more flexibility. You can choose to start preparing core components of your application in your junior or senior year (your LSAT scores will stay good for five years) and saving them for when you’re ready to apply. The bulk of your preparation should occur about one to two years before you plan to enroll.
2. Sign up for an LSAT test or two.
Signing up for the LSAT is often one of the first things applicants do to prepare their law school application. The LSAT is only administered six times a year so you’re tied to a loose timeline of LSAC’s testing schedule. Preparing to take the LSAT often takes months of studying, signing up far in advance for the test, and then waiting weeks to a month for the results. (It typically takes three weeks for results to be released.) The entire process from sign-up through receiving test scores takes months.
Sign up for an LSAT test about two years before you plan to enroll in law school. Taking a test two years before you plan to enroll allows you the time to take a second exam if needed before submitting your application.
If you want to enroll in law school directly after graduation, then you should sign up for the LSAT in your junior year, ideally in June or July. This will leave the September and November test date available in case you have to take it again without derailing your early application timeline.
If you are currently a senior and want to enroll in law school next year, sign up for the September, November or January exam at the latest. (Though at the time this article is published, Sept. and Nov. registration has passed.) You may not have the luxury of taking another exam. So, study as much as you can for your first LSAT.
If you want to take time off before law school, sign up for an LSAT test that fits best with your schedule and allows you the most time to study and prepare for it. Since your score stays good for five years, don’t wait until the last minute to take the test.
3. Ask for letters of recommendation.
Your letters of recommendation are a critical component to your law school application timeline. Yet these letters are one of a few pieces of the application that are somewhat out of your control.
Ask professors for a letter of recommendation about 1.5 years before you want to enroll; or approximately, one to six months before you want to apply to law school. Be sure to ask professors that you’ve already had for class. Don’t start the semester in September and ask a professor to write you a letter of recommendation in October. Chances are that they don’t know you well at that point and either won’t write you a letter or won’t write you a very good one! This is why you may need to ask far in advance of applying; perhaps at the end of your spring semester, before you break for summer and lose contact.
Additionally, when your professor writes your letter is often dictated by his or her own workload and class schedule. Give professors plenty of time to complete a letter of recommendation, with at least a few weeks notice at a minimum to complete the letter. Build in a buffer of a couple weeks on your end in case they miss your requested deadline. If you intend to apply on November 1, ask for letters to be submitted by October 15.
When you ask professors for letters of recommendation, let them know of the date you’d like to have it by. It may feel like a role reversal, but it’s critical that letters are submitted in a timely manner as part of your application process.
4. Be aware of application open and close dates.
Most law school applications open in the fall, between September and October. Many schools employ rolling admissions or offer binding early-decision options, so applying early is essential. In order to have your application reviewed for a decision, it must be complete. This requires an LSAT score. Therefore, be sure you sign up for an LSAT and have a score to apply with before submitting any applications. Submitting your application early but without an LSAT score will not do you any good.
Most applications deadlines are in the spring, with a few schools extending the deadline into the summer. (Note that you want to apply early. By the spring, many seats in the incoming class are already filled and the admissions process becomes much more competitive for applicants.) Nevertheless, there are still hard cutoff dates for when applications may be submitted. If you’re applying late make sure that you submit your application before these dates!
5. Abide by additional deadlines once admitted.
Once you’re admitted, the admissions process doesn’t stop! Take a minute to breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate yourself on your recent admission. However, there are still deadlines that must be on your radar.
The deadlines to be aware of are financial aid (FASFA), scholarship deadlines for your particular school, first and second seat deposit, as well as possible private scholarship and housing deadlines. Despite all of your hard work, missing any of these deadlines may derail your admission process. Don’t let these deadlines slip!
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