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Law School Admissions Timeline

The road to your J.D. or LL.M. can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here's a calendar of what law applicants should be doing, and when.

January – February

Don't Forget: Most law schools will continue taking fall applications for just 1 or 2 more months. Schools that use rolling admissions have already been filling class seats for the past few weeks. Competition for the remaining seats will get harder and harder as the final deadlines approach.

Standardized Tests:

  • If you're waitlisted, think about retaking the LSAT in February. (Any school with an application deadline of March 1 or later should accept the February LSAT and late registration for this test closes on January 16.) With hard work and good luck, you might improve your score enough to persuade the admissions committee that you're a good fit for their J.D. program – and that you're serious enough about a law career to make the effort to improve your score.

  • If you're a 2017 applicant, start thinking about when you want to take the LSAT. A partial list of 2016 test dates is available at www.lsac.org.

  • Are you unsure if you need a LSAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) to discuss your situation. We're here to help you!

School Selection:

  • If your top priority is to begin law school this fall, you should be applying to several different schools. Depending on any feedback you might have already received on your applications, now might be a good time to consider adding some additional safety schools to your list. You need to be realistic about admissions statistics and leave yourself with some room to maneuver if you aren't accepted at your top-choice schools. Apply only to as many schools as you can submit well-prepared applications for. You'll get better results by applying to 5 stretch schools with applications that reflect 100 per cent of your best effort than you will by applying to 10 schools with applications that each reflect 50 per cent of your best effort. And don't apply to any school that you wouldn't be genuinely happy to attend. You'll be wasting your time and money if you do. Nothing biases an admissions committee against a candidate more than a palpable lack of enthusiasm for their school.

  • If you're applying to law schools for Fall 2017 admission, begin researching your school choices now. Define your most important search criteria to narrow down your school choices. Consider applying under an early admission program.

  • Visit schools. Try to meet with admissions staff and students, and see if you can sit in on a class. Begin networking with current students, faculty, and alumni from your targeted schools.

Strategic Positioning:

  • If you're applying to law schools next year, start thinking about how you can prepare a personal statement that articulates you story themes and 'wow' factors. Good ideas and deep introspections cannot be rushed!

  • The law school admissions committees will be taking a hard, critical look at your profile. You must do the same thing first. Only by understanding your candidacy from their perspective, can you best mitigate your weaknesses, highlight your strengths, frame your fit, and employ the 'wow' factors that differentiate yourself from the many other highly qualified applicants in your demographic.

  • Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.

  • Your strengths. You need to become a self promoter without coming across as arrogant. You also need to prioritize your strengths as you will not likely be able to highlight all of them in adequate detail within your applications.

  • Your story themes and 'wow' factors. What are the most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs, experiences, and reasons for pursuing law school? Have you adequately prioritized these points? If you attempt to convey too many different points, you risk coming across as disparate and not covering any points in adequate detail to successfully set apart your application. What makes you unique in a way that is going to make any admissions officer just really want to recruit you to their school?

  • Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the specific law school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the program?

  • If you're applying to law schools next year, you need to take a critical inventory of your candidacy. Will you clear the academic qualifications hurdles at the schools you are targeting? Would you benefit from an alternative transcript? Can you find some additional extracurricular activities that will not cast a perception of expediency to the admissions committees?

Applications:

"Letters of recommendation, in my experience, do not get enough attention in the admissions process. While the academic record, LSAT and personal statement typically carry more weight in a competitive process, I can't emphasize enough how much difference strong letters can make."

Senior Admissions Consultant Heike Spahn, former Assistant Dean at University of Chicago Law School.

  • Stick to your schedule of what schools you want to apply to, when. Remember that it's generally to your advantage to apply early to law schools that use rolling admissions policies, since the earlier you apply the greater number of openings available. We stress generally since it may be advantageous to wait until later in the cycle if you need more time to complete an alternate transcript, retake the LSAT, firm up your story, etc.

  • Review your personal statement and ask yourself how well it serves to promote your candidacy at those schools you still need to submit your application to. Oftentimes, you'll want to use different personal statements at different law schools. After all, the schools are different from one another and seek different traits in their student bodies. Tailoring your personal statement to your targeted schools is especially important at this point in the admissions cycle because the competition for the few remaining seats is so fierce.

  • Determine if you need to include an addendum to your personal statement. What additional points, if any, do you need to make? If you are attempting to mitigate a weakness, be sure you don't come across as defensive or whiny. Doing so will only draw more attention to the flaw you're trying to mitigate.

  • Review where you stand with your letters of recommendation. Would you benefit from adding an additional, optional recommendation to your file? Would an additional letter help to substantiate a story theme or 'wow' factor, highlight your strengths, or, possibly, mitigate a weakness? Don't forget to coach your recommenders on which points they need to make in their letters to best compliment your story. Writing up the points that you want them to discuss is a good starting point. Help your recommenders to focus on the points you need them to make. Remember, a 1- to 2-page, succinct recommendation is almost always better than a 3- or more page, rambling letter

Our Law School Admissions Timeline page will be updated on March 1.


Do you have questions about any of the items you see here? Please call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) or email us if you do. Our consultants can help you with school selection, application strategies, application preparation, and all other aspects of the law school admissions process.

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