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Checklist of things to do before the October LSAT

I know, you were probably expecting a fantastic exploration into the origins and future of the American woodworking profession by way of a panda allegory, but there’s work to be done! Specifically, there’s work to be done by you. If you’re applying to law school this fall, you’re going to need more than just your October LSAT score. There’s much to be done, and you shouldn’t wait until after you’ve taken the LSAT to start doing it. If you do put off the other aspects of your application, you might not have everything together and your application sent in until well into December or even the new year. You definitely can apply at this point, but you really shouldn’t. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of both admission and financial aid. By taking the LSAT in October instead of December, you’ve got the magical opportunity to apply early, an opportunity which shouldn’t be wasted. If you apply by December 1st, you’re going to be applying before the majority of people. And if you can apply even earlier than this, so much the better. So here I’ve put together a list of the things you should be doing even while you’re studying for the LSAT.

First, though, a disclaimer. Your LSAT score trumps all. It doesn’t matter how early you apply and how wonderful your personal statement is if your score is 10 points below where it could have been. So if you absolutely have no time to sacrifice, err on the side more LSAT study.

But with that being said…

Sign Up For the Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
You should go sign up for CAS (formerly LSDAS) right now. This service, brought to you by the fine people who give us the LSAT, will streamline the whole application process. You’ll just send the CAS all your documentation, and then these documents are easily electronically sent to the schools to which you want to apply. This is where you’ll be sending your personal statement(s), letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. When you pay the fee you get use of the service for five whole years, so you may as well sign up now. And then…

Send In Your Transcripts
You’re probably already aware that law schools sort of care about your undergraduate grades, so you have to send in the appropriate transcripts. If you’re not taking any summer courses, you may as well send them in now; they can take a while for LSAC to process, and some schools can take forever to actually get them sent out. It shouldn’t take you too long, so after you sign up for CAS contact your school’s office of the registrar to get them sent it. Also, you have to send in transcripts from every undergraduate institution you attended, so if you took a class a community college one summer, they’re going to need that transcript, too. If you’re taking summer classes, those grades will have to be considered, so for you people, you should wait until your grades are finalized and on your transcript before sending in your request.

Put the Feelers out for Letters of Rec
You’re going to need to get a few letters of recommendation, and you should start the process sooner rather than later. Come up with a number of potential targets. Some might say no, and some might say yes but won’t seem that interested. Getting a cookie-cutter form letter can look pretty bad, so these people should be avoided. Once you do lock down a couple professors to write you letters of rec, you have to wait for them to actually write the thing. This can take an annoyingly and unnecessarily long time depending on the person, so the sooner you ask them the better.

Begin your Personal Statement
You don’t have to actually write the whole thing out, but you at least should be starting the process. Brainstorm multiple topics to see what sticks. Often people find that coming up with the subject matter is the hardest part of all. If you can’t decide between a few different ideas, actually write some different drafts out. Usually that process will separate the wheat from the chaff. Take your time. You want something workable, but it doesn’t have to be a final draft. You can take the week or two after the LSAT to really finish it off. But you shouldn’t wait until that point to start.

Study for the LSAT
This, of course, is the most important part. None of the above to-dos should ever get in the way of getting the highest LSAT score possible. Your score is by far the most important part of your application, and if getting a higher score means applying a few weeks later, by all means take that route.