Law School Application Timeline For Non-College Students

As soon as you decide that you want to go to law school

Keep track of your experiences and accomplishments and collect samples of your work for future use in preparing your personal statement and resume.

Prepare a one-page resume of your accomplishments both for the use of letter writers and for inclusion with your law school applications. Your resume should include work experience, your major and GPA, extracurricular activities, and special skills.

Take one or two timed LSAT practice exams. In an environment that is as close to the actual test conditions as possible, time the test at 35 minutes per section. Assess where your score falls and where you want it to be.

Learn as much you can about the LSAT, including the various types of questions, the scoring scale, and strategies for optimal performance. Develop a plan of preparing for the test.

Decide when you want to take the LSAT-visit for dates and locations. You should plan on taking the LSAT no later than June or October a year prior to your expected entry into law school. The June test is preferable because you will receive the results early enough to be in the first wave of applicants. Because of rolling admissions, the earlier you apply, the better your chances of admission. The June test also gives you an opportunity to retake the test in October if your score is lower than you expected.

Participate in organizations, committees, and other activities. While important in developing your leadership skills, these activities will also help you enhance your relationships with personnel that will help strengthen your application.

Identify factors important to you in your choice of schools, such as size, geographic locale, surrounding community or city, and interest in specific programs. Develop a rough list of the schools you think you want to explore further. Review their websites and look up information about them in the latest edition of the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, published each May and available free online.

Start work on obtaining recommendations. See the LSAT & CAS Registration and Information Book for instructions if you are going to have recommendations sent to CAS. Always personally ask the people you would like to write a recommendation for you. Seriously consider who you ask for a letter of recommendation. They should be people who know you well and are willing to write a detailed letter about your overall knowledge, motivation, problem solving skills, and leadership abilities. It is very helpful to provide them with written information about yourself, including your resume, copies of papers you wrote for their courses, a copy of your personal statement (if available). Make sure they understand that they are writing one generic letter that can be sent to every law school to which you are applying. Send a "thank you" note a few weeks later to express your gratitude and serve as a reminder.

3-4 months before the LSAT

Take another timed and scored practice test and evaluate your performance and your score. If you do not score as well as you would like on any of the practice tests, if you do not think your studying is effective, or if you need the structure of a group activity to motivate you to study, consider taking one of our PowerScore LSAT preparation courses.

Begin gathering materials for the CAS. Remember that you must send a transcript from every college and junior college you have attended. Be sure to check the transcripts for any errors that have been made in recording grades or credits.

Take more practice tests and begin to get an approximate idea of your best-case and worst-case score scenarios. Begin to plan an application strategy based upon the resulting score range.

2 Months before the LSAT

Register for the LSAT. Registration deadlines usually fall one month prior to the test, but you may check the LSAC website for specific deadlines.

Take the LSAT

June is the ideal time to take the LSAT, but only take it if you are confident in your ability to do well. Good luck!

Immediately after you have taken the LSAT

Continue to work on your personal statement. Your personal statement can include your ambitions, objectives in life, career interests, and life experiences.

Pick up some old application forms and look at the essay questions. Work on your essay.

Write or email to request application materials, catalogs, admissions bulletins and information on financial aid from every school that interests you. This information should begin arriving within two weeks of your request. If you have not been sent the materials within a month, call the school.

Begin to narrow down your list of schools and, if close by, attend a law school fair. Visit campuses and meet with students and faculty.

If you are applying to law school for the following academic year, submit the required forms to CAS, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. Be sure to check your CAS report carefully for errors when it comes back.

Prepare your personal statement. If you have difficulty, consider enrolling in one of our Personal Statement Programs.

Seek national scholarships and financial aid. If you plan to seek Financial Aid, begin the application process as soon as the financial aid forms are available. The earlier you apply for financial aid, the better your chances of receiving it. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you are applying for financial aid (this includes loans). Also, prepare and submit all loan applications as early as possible. Decisions on awards may be delayed until final class selections, but it is best to have the paperwork submitted as early as possible.

Approximately 2 months after you have taken the LSAT (after you have received your score)

If you have a low score, you might consider taking the LSAT a second time. This would be particularly true if you were ill, had a family emergency, or if another extraordinary circumstance negatively impacted your performance.

If any of your applications require a Dean's Certification letter, submit the request as soon as you know you will be applying to that school. Roughly ten to fifteen percent of all law schools still require a Dean's Certification letter.

Read the application material from each school very carefully. Look at your GPA and LSAT score, and compare them to the scores of accepted students in each university you are seriously considering (found in the Official Guide to US Law Schools). Narrow your choices to a realistic number of schools to which you actually will send applications. Apply to a few schools in each of the following areas: schools which you would love to attend, but may be more challenging to be accepted; schools where you stand a good chance based on your scores; and schools where your credentials are slightly higher than the previous year's accepted students.

Organize, prepare, and complete your applications carefully. Apply early if possible. The earlier you apply, the better your chances. An increasing number of law schools are implementing early action, early notification, or early decision programs. If you are interested in pursuing these options, be aware that the applications may be due as early as the first week of October. Check the instructions for all applications carefully with regard to timing, recommendations, and personal statement. Keep photocopies of everything you submit, whether you apply online or by mail.

Once you have all of your letters of recommendation, send them out. You may either send them out along with your application, or they can be sent shortly after your applications. While some law schools suggest that you send recommendation letters with your application, it will not be a problem to have the letters sent separately. Although you can check to make sure the law school received your recommendations, it usually is best simply to wait until they acknowledge that your application is complete.

3-4 months after the LSAT

Make sure that your file is complete at each law school to which you applied. By January (or six weeks after you have completed and sent in an application), call any law schools that have not notified you that your application is complete.

Try to be patient. Most decisions, unless you applied early, will be made from January on into the late Spring. In February, send a letter to any school in which you are still under consideration but have been waitlisted. Inform them of your continued interest and enthusiasm for the school, and update them on any accomplishments or any new information they do not have. The letter should include any honors, activities, work experience, extracurricular activities, or special accomplishments about which the school was not informed in the initial application. It is not a bad idea to also include another letter of recommendation if you feel it is appropriate.

As soon as you begin to receive results from the applications, start the decision making process about where you will enroll.

Visit as many of the law schools to which you have been accepted as you can. Ideally, plan the visit at a time when the school is in session and students are available or when any open house event is scheduled. Do your research and prepare questions on any points you want to clarify. Meet with students, administrators and faculty as appropriate to find out more about the learning environment, course options, housing, and career placement resources.

Make your final decisions, but not until you have heard from most of the schools where you applied. Financial aid, fellowship money, cost, and location may each be a factor in your decision. Pay the admission deposit and plan housing.

Out of consideration for fellow applicants, notify schools immediately if you no longer wish to be considered or as soon as you have made an admission decision.

Share your success. Keep in touch with and thank everyone who provided support, encouragement, and assistance.

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