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What To Know About Applying Early And True Costs of Law School

With law school application season on the horizon, a number of potential applicants may have to decide how they’d like to apply time-wise – and how much they’re looking to pay.

Daniel Waldman, a contributor at US News and admissions consultant at Stratus Law School Admissions Consulting, recently published a Q&A piece that breaks down early decision vs. early action and cost of tuition vs. cost of attendance.

Early Action vs. Early Decision

A number of applicants may decide to either apply to law schools as early action applicants or early decision applicants.

Waldman says there are similarities and differences between the two options.

“The main thing early action and early decision have in common is a significantly earlier deadline to submit the application, often as early as November, followed by an earlier response from the school,” Waldman writes.

The main challenge behind applying early, according to Waldman, is gathering application materials “far in advance.” Candidates applying early will need to request letters of recommendation, take exams, and write papers earlier.

“Additionally, a November deadline precludes the applicant from taking or retaking the LSAT in December or later; in contrast, applicants applying via regular admissions have a few more LSAT dates to improve their score,” Waldman writes.

The biggest difference between early action and early decision, however, is that the latter is binding.

“Once an early decision applicant has been offered admission, he or she is obligated to withdraw all applications to other law schools and enroll in the school offering a seat,” Waldman writes.

On the other hand, early action is non-binding and allows applicants to submit applications to other schools they may be interested in. Simply put, early action can give applicants the “peace of mind” that they may have a school to fall back on.

“The implication is that admitted applicants can save time and money otherwise spent on applying to safety schools,” Waldman writes.

How does one decide whether to apply early action vs. early decision? It depends on which schools are a reach and which schools are safer options.

“Early decision applicants have been demonstrably more successful than their regular cycle counterparts, so that’s usually a good route to choose when applying to a reach school,” Waldman writes. “Conversely, given that early action may be offered by schools that are lower ranked but still within the top 50, this may be a good option to use when applying to a safety school.”

Tuition vs. Cost of Attendance

A number of schools offer lower in-state tuition for applicants who reside in the school’s state. These in-state tuition costs may be significantly lower than out of state tuition.

Yet, Waldman advises applicants to understand that there are often two costs associated to a law education: cost of tuition and cost of attendance.

“While tuition typically accounts for most of your cost of attendance, the two are not interchangeable; at some schools, room and board, books and personal expenses may even exceed tuition,” Waldman writes.

A number of schools may advertise a certain tuition price, but often those prices come with fees.

“It really all should be called tuition, but some play a little shell game when they don’t want to advertise tuition increases. So they increase a fee over here, and you end up with something complicated like that. Others include it all as one straight fee,” says Nate Johnson, founder and principal of Postsecondary Analytics, a Florida-based higher education research firm, in US News.

Sources: US News, US News