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From the Vaults: A Brief Rundown of the Law School Admissions Timeline

This post first appeared on Most Strongly Supported in March. Given that the clock continues to tick, it’d be a good idea to read this over again, or for the first time.

“Tick-tock,” says the applications timeline clock. “Stop ticking,” says the law school applicant.

Today’s post is a rundown of when you should be doing what when it comes to applying for law school starting in Fall of 2017. (If you’re looking to start this coming Fall and have yet to get the ball rolling, this post is also for you, because you’re too late, bucko, and it’s Fall 2017 for you, also.)

Each school can set their own schedule as to how and when they consider applications, but the vast majority of them start reviewing applications around October. What that means is that, if you want to be at the top of the pile on day one, you’ve got about six months to get all your ducks in a row. While that may seem like a long time, some of those ducks are rabid ducks – one named LSAT – that have a bad habit of trying to duck bite you to death as you align them. Quack!

Conversely, most schools close applications around February, which is nearly a year from now, and some lower-ranked schools will still be accepting applications around this time next year and beyond. If this tickled your slacker bone, there’s something you should know. Almost all schools do rolling admissions, meaning that, starting in October, seats are being given away, and so, even though you might technically be on time applying in February, you’ll be competing for a much smaller number of seats. Don’t do that.

Things To Do ASAP

I’ll give you a list, but, here’s the deal. Anything that requires another human being to perform some kind of task is a vicious threat to your law school application. That’s because other humans, especially those who work in educational bureaucracies like a university or, even worse, The Law School Admission Council or LSAC (the people who make the LSAT and compile your application for you) are just as content with you falling into a vat of boiling acid as they are with you getting into law school. No, really. They don’t care, and they’ll do whatever you’re asking of them whenever they please, if at all. Moreover, no school will look at any piece of your application until it is complete, so start with these things now:

Register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS): Every bit of your law school application goes through a clearing house maintained by LSAC. You need to have this service up and running in the first place to aggregate the application tidbits as they come rushing in.

Seek letters of recommendation: The amount of time this will take depends largely upon the relationship you have with your recommenders. Professors are notoriously flaky about these things, and you’re not the only one asking for a letter of recommendation. If you have no relationship with any of these people, then you need to approach them right now. Most law schools require at least two academic letters, but, if you’ve been out of school five or more years, they’ll accept professional recommendations instead.

Craft an LSAT study plan: The October exam is the last one you can take and have your score consider at the opening of the admissions period. While all schools take the December exam, and many take the February exam, those are late in the cycle and seats have been given away. That means you ought to be at least considering taking the June exam (right around the corner!) so you don’t have all your eggs in the October basket.

Things To Do Before October

This, as you can imagine, is the stuff you have under your control. Just remember that anything you do goes through CAS, and so you still shouldn’t be waiting until the last day for any of this.

Write your personal statement: While it’s great to have a template, you really ought to be tailoring your personal statement to each school you’re applying to, explaining why you’re a great addition to their particular institution. Start early-ish, and do research on these institutions. The more schools you apply to, the longer this will take.

Write explanatory essays, if necessary: If there’s some piece of your application that doesn’t look so hot, you may have to write an extra essay to explain. Let’s be clear, though. There needs to be a good explanation as well as some indication that it won’t happen again. If you bombed all your classes this past semester because you were drunk all day, and you still drink all day, writing an explanation will only draw attention to your irresponsibility.

Craft your resume: This bit of your application, like all the others, should make the case generally that you’re a diligent worker and specifically that you’d make a good addition to the particular law school you’re applying to, so tailor this as well.

Well, those are the big things. In addition, you should be considering the number and scope of schools you’re interested in now. The more schools you apply to, the more time and money it costs to apply. If you need financial help, you’ll need to apply for fee waivers from LSAC and the law schools to which you’re applying. Start that stuff early, and good luck!