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Early Admissions Option Can Benefit Law Applicants

Several top law schools, including the New York University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, have recently added binding Early Decision programs to their admissions options, notes Senior Consultant Derek Meeker.

These programs can benefit applicants who use them – even those who are not admitted on the basis of an early application.

As admissions officials point out, binding Early Decision and non-binding Early Action programs give applicants earlier notification of their admissions outcomes. Students know by December whether they have been admitted to a law class convening the following fall. That extra notice is important for applicants who will be leaving a full-time job to attend law school, or who will be combining law school with family responsibilities.

But even applicants who do not receive an admissions offer in the ED round can gain from the experience, says Derek. "If an applicant who applies early is placed on 'hold' – i.e., deferred to the regular admission applicant pool for further review – this is a signal that the school was interested enough in the applicant to keep him or her in the pool," says Derek. "That gives the applicant an opportunity to take a step back, 're-review' the application he or she submitted, and think about what he or she might send the school to supplement the application.

"If an applicant is rejected through an early admission program, it may be an indicator that he or she needs to cast the net a bit more widely and apply to additional schools that are more within his or her reach."

Derek reminds applicants to look carefully at the conditions of a particular school's early admissions program before deciding whether to apply to it. "Different schools have different guidelines," he says. "Be especially careful to check whether or not the program is binding, meaning that you promise up front to attend the school if it accepts you.

"Be warned that, in the world of admissions, 'binding' means 'binding.' When you apply early, your application includes a signed statement saying you will attend the school if you are accepted. The school will expect you to honor that commitment. You don't want to start off your legal career by reneging on a signed agreement.

"Obviously, this means that binding ED programs might be valuable if you're absolutely sure you want to attend a specific school, but they're not the right choice if you prefer to keep your options open."

– Derek is a Senior Admissions Consultant and former Dean of Admissions for the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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