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.

Don’t Forget: The final deadlines for Fall 2020 admission to most law schools have passed by now. Schools will begin taking applications for Fall 2021 in September. Because most law schools have a rolling admissions policy, we generally advise applicants to try to apply early in the application cycle. (We stress generally since some applicants might benefit from taking the time to compile an alternate transcript, retake the LSAT, etc.) For details, see what Senior Consultant Heike Spahn has to say about rolling admissions and application timing.

Standardized Tests:

“Many applicants believe that their LSAT score is the determining factor as to whether they will be admitted. But if the rest of your application is weak, a strong LSAT score rarely carries you through.”

– Senior Admissions Consultant Heike Spahn. Heike was formerly Associate Director of Admissions and Dean of Financial Aid at the University of Chicago Law School.

  • Pick a date to take the LSAT. (A list of test dates is available at Remember that spring is a good time to take the test. You’ll be able to use your scores in your school selection process, and you’ll leave yourself plenty of time to re-take the test in the fall if you’re unhappy with your first set of scores. Don’t forget that that the December test is the last one that many schools will accept test scores from.

  • According to a piece of admissions ‘advice’ that has been making the rounds recently, there’s no longer any penalty for taking the LSAT multiple times because of a change in the way that law schools report multiple test scores to the ABA. Don’t fall for it. It’s an urban legend. For reliable information, see what Senior Consultant Heike Spahn has to say about “Putting Multiple LSAT Scores in Context.”

  • Are you unsure if you need a LSAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!

School Selection:

  • Begin researching your school choices. If your top priority is to begin a J.D. program next fall, be realistic about your admissions chances at the top schools and consider some ‘safety’ schools as well. Remember, though, that the name of the school on your law degree matters. The more prestigious the school you attend, the more career options you’ll have later on.

  • Plan to 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 percent of your best effort than you will by applying to 10 schools with applications that each reflect 50 percent 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 a law school admissions committee against a candidate more than a palpable lack of enthusiasm for their school.

  • 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. Think about which schools you feel most attracted to, and why, and how you can work those reasons into your applications.

Strategic Positioning:

  • Start thinking about how you can prepare a personal statement that articulates your 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 you 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?


“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 Amy Johnson, former Director of Admissions at Tulane University Law School.

  • Familiarize yourself with the application process by visiting the LSAT and LSDAS websites and looking over the application materials used by your targeted law schools this year. Start organizing documents and notes that you’ll want to refer to when you begin working on your applications.

  • Request copies of your transcripts for your own reference. Admissions committees won’t be looking at just your overall GPAs – they’ll also look at what classes you took and how you did in each one. Ask yourself whether your transcripts have gaps such as a pattern of drops or withdrawals, or lower-than-average scores in writing-intensive or quantitative courses. Think about whether you might benefit by building an alternative transcript.

  • Start thinking about who you want to ask to write 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 that you’ll want 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 May 1.

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