Early Decision Deadlines for Law Schools

Law School Expert Blog

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.

37 Responses

  1. With undergraduate admissions there is always the mindset that ED is helpful for “on the border” candidates. For law admissions, do you feel that ED helps those who might be cutting it close?

    My personal situation is a 162/3.64, looking at Illinois College of Law. My scores make me competitive, with the GPA higher than the median, but LSAT slightly below.


    -Nervous undergrad

  2. Assuming you are talking about the U. Of Illinois, then you sound (on the numbers) like someone who is a good candidate for Early Decision.
    If this is the school you absolutely want to attend, then I do think applying ED is a good idea for you. The U of Illinois web site states you won’t receive additional consideration for scholarships based on this status, but that’s ok.
    Thanks for writing and please let me know if I can be of any help to you.

  3. hey i graduated from Penn State but low low GPA with a 168 LSAT any ideas of schools i should apply too? i dont care if i have to relocate. is ED a better option for me?

  4. I can’t give specific schools advice anonymously on the blog format because I just don’t know enough about you to tell you anything useful. If you’re interested in an initial consultation, please contact me through http://www.lawschoolexpert.com. Part of the work I do with my clients is help them come up with a schools list and decide whether/where to pursue Early Decision applications.

  5. I would like to go to the University of Missouri law next fall. I am currently a student there, but my scores are a bit low for the school (gpa 3.65, lsat 155, though I have good LORs and lots of internships/work/volunteer experience). Would you recommend applying early decision? What would be chances be during regular admission?

  6. what happens if the school who accepts you on early decision does not give a financial package that lets you go there and another does?

    how binding is it?

  7. I am considering your services regarding revising essays and statements, I currently have a 150/3.5 GPA and I graduated with 5 majors from a Private School. I’ve had extensive research and teaching experiences with 3 very very strong recommendation letters. What can I do to really get into a T30 school? I’ve applied last year with weak recs and a 1 hr written statement, but I think it’s primarily because of my LSAT score. I am thinking about reapplying for ED this year, what do you think?

  8. Dear Anonymous, I am happy to provide free initial consultations to anyone considering using my services. You can email me to set up a time. I look forward to hearing from you.

  9. Hi, I would like to also see what kind of advice you have for the latest post by anonymous, can you possibly post your suggestions? THANK YOU!

  10. What are your thoughts?

    3.68 GPA (3.73 upon graduation this December)
    160 LSAT
    Major: BM

    However, I used to be an opera singer and I had one year off during my undergraduate studies due to vocal nodules that forced me to take time away from my school.

    ED UCLA for Entertainment Law?

  11. Lisa, thanks for writing. I can’t assess someone’s chances for admission through the blog format but feel free to contact me for an initial consultation if that interests you.

  12. i accidentally applied early to a law school which is very low on my list and got in. now i am technically bound to go there, but i dont want to. i emailed the school explaining the situation (i never filled in the necessary contract), what do you think will happen?



  13. You never filled in the contract? Or did submitting and checking the box constitute a signature? Keep us posted on what happens…THis is why it’s so important to be careful before submitting applications, but it’s a good problem to have!

  14. no there is a necessary contract that can be sent in by as late as december 1st. i told them i have no intentions on filling it out (politely of course) and am waiting their response. my mom hates me right now

  15. I graduated from NYU in finance and economics with a 3.82 average in 3.5 yrs. Took the LSAT my jr year and scored a 166. I plan to take it again Dec 2012 with more prep this time. Question – My first choice for law school is University of Chicago (hometown, their unique focus on economics, top 5)and I am unsure if I applying ED will benefit me. Should I apply ED or apply regular decision after I get my Dec 2012 score? Also, have strong formal internship experience for all three summers of undergrad and am currently a consultant for a large consulting firm in NYC. Thanks for your wisdom & insight!

    1. Hi S. Shaw,
      Applying ED would benefit you, yes. But you’re retaking the LSAT, and a higher LSAT score will also benefit you. U Chicago’s website states that it will not make exceptions – the October LSAT is the last one it will consider for binding admissions. So, if you feel you will raise your score by 2-3 or more points, you should absolutely take December rather than apply ED.
      Please let me know if I can help in any way.

  16. Hi Ann,

    I am attending Gettysburg College and I am an Economics and Mathematics major. I have a 3.2 gpa and a 172 lsat score. My top choice is Georgetown, would you suggest applying early decision?

    Thank you.

    1. Kaley, are you sure you want to be in DC, and are scholarships not an issue for you? Don’t bind yourself unless you are sure.

  17. I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a 3.6 and my LSAT is a 168. I have worked in government/non-profit for 2 years. Georgetown is my first choice – should I apply early decision, or do I have a good chance of getting in regular decision? If I’m unlikely to get any scholarship money regular decision at Georgetown, I would rather just commit early decision.

    Thank you!

  18. I was wondering what you think of schools who have just recently added the early decision option. For instance, USC did not have it last year or the year before but it says for this admission cycle they are using ED. I’m assuming they did this because of their yield last year. Do you think this means they will take more students with USC as their reach school rather than just students on the border? (Specifically, I meet their median GPA but am two points below their 25% LSAT) Or should it mean the same as any other ED option.

    Here’s what the USC website says, “Early Decision candidates are evaluated under the same criteria as applicants who apply during the regular admissions cycle. Admission to USC Gould is highly competitive and the Admissions Committee will consider Early Decision candidates’ enthusiasm and strong interest in attending USC as factors in the admission process”

    1. Anonymous – (For future reference, I don’t answer anonymous questions on the blog because it’s too confusing for readers to follow the thread, but I’ll do it for you this once….)
      I think it helps keep you off the waiting list at USC if you apply ED – that’s a good thing. Definitely gives the law school a better head count, and saves them from negotiating scholarships.

  19. I graduated from UW-Madison but 3.2 GPA with a 155 LSAT. I am a minority with good LOR’s and evaluations. I have had quite a few internship, volunteer work, as well worked full-time as a paralegal for over a year. I am looking to go to University of Minnesota-Law School. Is ED a better option for me?

  20. I am 100% sure I want to attend Emory Law, however my GPA is below their median (3.1). My LSAT on the other hand is 8 points above their LSAT median (173). Should I apply early decision? I am concerned that my chances would be lower if I apply during regular admission. I am also concerned that I may not get a scholarship offer. Please help! Either way I KNOW I want to attend the school, but scholarships would be helpful also.

  21. Hi Ann , I have a 3.7 GPA and 169 LSAT . I’m nervous about my major Mass Communications and a minor in Government and Politics will that make me less of a competitive candidate in the eyes of admissions counselors? I’m considering applying early decision to Columbia. Do you think that’s a good idea? Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Crystal. Your major is what it is – you can’t change it now. You can have LORs that talk about the difficulty of your coursework and your great performance as a student. You can use your resume to show depth in your interests and passions, and an insightful personal statement will help you add meaning to your educational background.

  22. Hi Ann,

    I have a 162 LSAT but a 3.99 GPA. I am a Political Science major from SUNY Stony Brook and I am a non-traditional student because of my age – 31. I know law schools typically add more weight to the LSAT, but because I have such disparate marks, I’m not sure where to apply ED. Do you think Duke would be unreasonable with those numbers – they offered me a fee waiver but I read that that doesn’t significantly increase acceptance likelihood. I’m also considering ED at NYU. Am I way off the mark?

    1. Hi Kurtis, I can’t give estimates of schools chances on the blog format, but I would make sure you are balancing your schools list with places where your LSAT is within a few points of the 25th percentile and median.

  23. Hi Ann,

    Early decision is something I am heavily considering. With a 3.88 GPA and 161 LSAT, what do you recommend for UCLA or USC law Early decision? (non URM)

    Also, if I did do an early decision, can I still take the Dec LSAT in case I get rejected? And then use the Dec LSAT to apply regular decision to other schools?

  24. Hi Ann,

    I am a Columbia University student with a 3.76 GPA and a 165 on the LSAT. I really want to stay in NY for law school and want to apply ED to either Columbia or NYU. While I would love to go to Columbia law school, I feel like I would have a better chance getting into NYU law school with my numbers. What do you think/What do you think my chances for NYU or Columbia are? Staying in NY is really important to me. Thank you so much!

  25. Hi Ann,

    I just got back my September LSAT today. I got a 158, which is a few points lower than I anticipated. However, I have come to the conclusion I should just run with it. I have a 3.48 LSAC GPA in engineering with excellent engineering co-op experience and leadership roles, along with great letters.

    I would like to go to Indiana – Bloomington to study IP law. They are a partner school that offers excellent scholarships. That being said I am debating ED. The instructions in the application say, “This program is designed for those high-caliber applicants who have a strong level of interest in the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.” What does “high-caliber applicants” mean in terms of a decision?

    I purchased your book, it has helped greatly in the other aspects of my application.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *