One of the first decisions you’ll have to make after solidifying your schools list is whether to apply under an Early Decision program.
The rule with Early Decision applications is that this is a binding agreement you are making with the school; if admitted, you will attend that school and withdraw all applications from other schools. In return, you will receive your admission decision a little bit faster (usually before Winter Break). The caveat is that in many cases your application will simply be “deferred” until the “regular” admissions cycle. But Early Decision is a great option for that school that you know, no matter what, you would attend. (See the explanation offered at Duke Law School’s website)
If a scholarship to another school would lure you away, or if a girlfriend/boyfriend moving to another city would change your desire to attend that school, please do not apply Early Decision. Simply sending in your application before Thanksgiving (or even Christmas in a year like this when applications are expected to be down overall) will help you take advantage of the benefits of rolling admission. Also, many schools have “early notification” programs where you will receive a decision more quickly without being bound to attend that school.
Many people ask me about “gaming” the system – will they get into a huge reach school because they have bound themselves to attend? The answer is really “no.” Early Decision works best for the person with a 3.8 GPA and 169 LSAT who applies Early Decision at Columbia Law and wants to stay in NYC for personal reasons.
Early Decision Deadlines are absolutely available for October LSAT takers; just have everything in your application ready to go when you get your LSAT score because some schools have Early Decision deadlines on November 1; Most are November 15 and some are even on a rolling basis. (See NYU Law’s website here)
Some schools, like Penn Law, have two rounds of Early Decision programs so that (after you’ve been rejected from your first choice law school) you can apply ED in January.
You can make this decision after receiving your October LSAT score, based on where you think you’d be likely to get in.