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Applying to Law School Early Still the Best Way to Go

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As we’ve said several times before on the LSAT blog, law school applications are most likely going to be way down this year. Significantly fewer people are taking the LSAT, and law schools are already scrambling to fill classes for the upcoming academic year. By doing so, they’re poaching potential law school applicants from their next class (and while it might seem shortsighted – and it is – once one law school does it, the rest are almost forced to follow suit).

However, with the beginning of the school year only weeks away (and some orientation weeks starting already), the majority of you aren’t falling into that ‘last minute to pack up my whole life and get in the mindset for law school!’ category, and you’ll be looking to enroll next year. How should this affect your strategy for law school applications?

First off, you probably want to reconsider applying Early Decision to certain law schools. While it’s true that you’ll get a small boost in the law school application process (a big boost at some schools), committing to go there should you be accepted precludes scholarship offers. Why are they going to try to entice you to go there when you’re contractually obligated? The boost you’ll get from applying in a down year is probably as good as the boost from ED, and scholarship offers have been up over recent years (fewer students paying less tuition – that’s a sustainable model!). It’s a gamble, but one that has a potential for a huge payoff (possibly tens of thousands of dollars, plus interest).

Second, I would still recommend applying early. While you might (might) be better off waiting a month or two for schools to see exactly how bad this law school application season is going to be, I don’t think that would help very much. First off, it’s the strongest students (i.e. great scores/overachievers) who tend to apply earliest. Schools always see these top law school applicants first, which might give them hope. Also, they’ve already been through a down year or two; they know that they’re in a bind for students. I expect them to hold on to ‘questionable’ law school applications instead of sending out rejections right away, seeing what they’ll eventually need to fill their classes. I also expect to see some deep reaching into waitlists.

So what does this mean for you? If you were borderline for a school a few years ago, expect better chances applying now. If you were a pipe dream at your #1 school, there’s reason to have some hope. However, if you’re slightly below their numbers, expect a long and drawn-out law school application season. And if you’re a strong candidate, expect some nice wining and dining (scholarship cash is what I’m saying here).

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