Why Its Important to Apply Early to Law School: Rolling Admissions

Law School Expert Blog

When Should You Submit Your Law School Applications?

Below are suggestions for application timelines based on LSAT administration dates, but keep in mind that these dates can change from year to year. I’m naming exact months as an approximation to help guide your admission timetable.

  1. If you take the LSAT before or during June for the final time, apply in September.
  2. If you take the August LSAT, complete your applications before the end of October. Early decision deadlines can be met on this timetable.
  3. If you take the LSAT in mid-November, apply by mid-December.
  4. The January LSAT is a problematic one if you’re applying to start law school in the same year. For first-time applicants, it means your application will not be complete until February at the earliest. For people re-taking the LSAT who have already applied, it means most law schools will hold review of your application until they have the new score, so you will not have the advantage of having applied earlier. You’re really betting that your new score will make the wait worthwhile.
  5. If you take the February LSAT to start law school the same year, check for February 1 deadlines at some schools. Not all schools accept the February LSAT for admission that fall. And even if they accept it, that doesn’t make it viable for admission. There’s not a lot of incentive for schools to make room for new applicants when they already have deposits and waiting lists for the incoming class.
  6. Taking the April or June LSAT to start law school the same fall is a horrible plan. You won’t have your LSAT score until July and school starts in August. Even if a school claims to accept June LSAT scores, by August they probably know whether they will be taking any stragglers from the waiting list, and those stragglers will get priority over your application. Some people will take a spring LSAT to improve their position on a waiting list; this can be effective. Otherwise, the spring and summer LSAT dates should be reserved for people who plan to apply in the fall.

[This post is an excerpt from the newly released 6th Edition of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert, available on Amazon.]

Should you apply before having your LSAT score?

Usually, no. Your application will not be reviewed until it is “complete,” and it can’t be complete without an LSAT score. Therefore, there is no advantage to submitting your application early. So, unless you’re up against a deadline (as can happen with the February LSAT), wait until you have your score to submit your application.

Besides, until the score comes in, you don’t know if you’ll even be competitive at a school. You might save money by not applying to a school that you know you don’t need to apply to anymore (a safety school) or by not applying to a school that turns out to be a far greater reach for your numbers than you might have predicted.

In addition, if you submit the application before knowing your score, you may miss the opportunity to explain your LSAT score as part of your application. For example, you can’t submit an explanation that says “My first score was low but my second score, after reducing my work schedule, was higher” if you don’t yet know that it was higher.

Remember that it takes three weeks after you take the LSAT to get your score. Once you have your score, you may decide to apply to different schools and/or to re-take the LSAT and postpone your applications. Keep in mind that this often makes the most sense. It’s very common to take the LSAT two or three times, and you should plan your admission cycle to allow for this rather than schedule your first LSAT in November. If you do, and then you need a retake, you would necessarily be a later applicant. However, if you plan in advance to take the test in the summer and retake it early in the fall, then you can still apply early in the cycle. Because applying early changes the schools you get into and the amount of scholarships you are offered, it would be worth the downside of applying slightly later in the admission cycle to have the higher LSAT score. But it might not be worth it to apply significantly later in the cycle.

Is there an advantage to applying on the very first day?

No. It is always a better idea to take a few extra weeks to submit the highest quality product—the best possible personal statement, resume, and letters of recommendation — rather than a rushed one. Early Decision and Early Notification deadlines are usually between November 1 and November 15 (with some schools holding out until December or March), so any applications submitted before Thanksgiving are considered early in the cycle.

What is the latest date you can apply and still take advantage of rolling admissions?

Today, in 2024, we are seeing a slower admission cycle with law schools waiting for those who took the LSAT in January because there was no December LSAT administration. Law schools were also slow to respond to applications because of the additional time needed to review optional essays and evaluate interviews. So, currently we are seeing less emphasis on the importance of rolling admission but it should still be considered Plan A for applicants to apply in September or October unless waiting for December or January would result in a higher standardized test score (which is a gamble).

Many applicants plan to spend winter break on their applications, but it can be stressful to find time to work on applications with family demands, and, of course, it’s usually storm and flu (or, dare I say now, another Covid) season which can hamper things. Don’t save all the work for winter break. There are schools that ask you to apply before a date in January to be competitive for certain scholarships, so keep your eye on those deadlines, too.

 

 

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