Understanding The Traditional Application Season

An excerpt from Jeremy Shinewald's book

An excerpt from Jeremy Shinewald’s book

When should you apply to law school?
Let’s take a look at a sample application season schedule to better understand when you should submit your files, at the earliest and at the latest. We hope these examples will allow you to draw parallels with your target schools, though dates will of course differ slightly from one school to another:

  • October 1: School begins accepting applications.
  • March 15: Last day applications are accepted.
  • Mid- to Late April: Most decisions are made by this time.
  • May 1: Deposits are due from accepted applicants.

The typical admissions season, as you can see, is fairly straightforward. It begins in the middle of October, so if you were incredibly motivated and had already taken the LSAT in June or earlier, you could be ready to submit your application on day one. Although this kind of immediacy is not crucial, submitting as early as possible—as early as you feel that you have your best application in hand—should be your plan. For any top school, a mid-November date should be a final personal deadline to target, whereas December would be “late.”
Submitting any time after December 20 is basically equivalent to applying in January, given the interruption of the holidays at that time—and January is “really late.” Think about that auditorium that is steadily filling—each day, claiming that coveted place in the class becomes more challenging. Admissions seasons pass very quickly and are unforgiving of procrastinators. If you want your best shot at a place in your target school’s class, be prepared to get your application in early.
Early Decision and Early Action Plans
Early decision and early action plans are programs through which candidates who have a strong affinity for a particular school can better their chances of acceptance at that school and significantly shorten the length of time they have to wait for a decision by submitting their application by a predetermined date at the very beginning of the application season. Both plans demand that candidates have their applications completed by the outset of the season—which in turn requires careful planning and forethought—and the main difference be- tween the two is that early decision plans involve a binding agreement, whereas early action plans do not.
Certain advantages and disadvantages are inherent in each of these types of plans, as we will explain. (Remember, of course, that variations exist from school to school, and that some programs may not offer either of these kinds of plans, so always check directly with your target school for its specific guidelines before preparing to apply.)