Law School Application Timeline For College Students
Freshman and Sophomore Years
Take classes that interest you in a field in which you will excel. Begin to identify your major and career goal. Try to build an outstanding undergraduate record and grade point average.
Research law-related internships or summer job opportunities that might help you decide if the legal field is right for you.
Participate in committees, extracurricular clubs, and organizations on campus that will help you gain skills and develop your leadership qualities. Join a Pre-Law Association or Society, Mock Trial, the Debate Team, or some other law-related activity if available.
Take a few practice tests, but don't get too caught up in your score just yet. Use the tests to diagnose your strengths and weaknesses. Based on your performance on the tests, you may want to choose courses that will improve your reading comprehension (upper division English) or logical reasoning (Philosophy).
Keep track of your experiences and accomplishments and collect samples of your work for future use in preparing your admissions application.
Develop a relationship with one or more professors, as you will need their assistance for recommendations. During the next two to three years, you will need to secure at least two letters of recommendation from teachers who know you well and are willing to write candid evaluations of your performance. The best letters are likely to come from teachers for whom you have done outstanding work in difficult courses.
Meet with your advisor and professors in your area of interest to discuss your plans for law school.
Fall and Winter of Junior Year
Continue to emphasize a focused course of study and seriously evaluate a career in law.
Sometime during the late fall or early winter of your junior year, take one or two LSAT practice exams. Take them timed under simulated test conditions and score them. See how you do. Assess where your score falls and where you want it to be.
Gather as much information as you can about the LSAT. By early in the second semester, develop a plan of preparing for the test. Familiarize yourself as fully as possible with the various types of questions.
Plan on taking the LSAT no later than June or October prior to your senior year, one 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. The June test also is administered at a time when you will not be concerned with classes. The October test can be beneficial because you can prepare over the summer without school conflicts.
Continue to develop relationships and gain experiences with faculty and other personnel that will help strengthen your application through committees, internships, clubs, etc.
Prepare a one-page resume of your accomplishments both for the use of faculty letter writers and for inclusion with your law school applications. Begin working on your personal statement.
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. It is very helpful to provide them with written information about yourself, including a 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. It is not necessary for them to produce copies of the same letter individually addressed to the schools to which you are applying, as this will not enhance your application and could delay the mailing of your recommendations. Send a "thank you" note a few weeks later to express your gratitude and serve as a reminder.
Identify factors important to you in your choice of schools (small/large, rural/urban, Northeast/South/West, etc.) Develop a rough list of the schools you think you want to explore further. Spend some time reviewing 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.
Spring of Junior Year
Continue to work diligently on your coursework and do not sacrifice your GPA to LSAT preparation. If you plan to submit your applications in late October or early November, this set of grades will be the last the law school sees in making its initial determination on your application.
Take another timed and scored practice test and evaluate your performance and your score. Are you generally self-motivated or do you need the structure and pressure of a course to study effectively? 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 and pressure of a group activity to motivate you to study, consider taking one of our PowerScore LSAT preparation courses.
If you plan to take the June LSAT, register in April. Registration deadlines usually fall one month prior to the test, but you may check the LSAC website for specific deadlines.
Begin gathering materials for the CAS. If you are taking summer school, register for the CAS and send your transcripts after the summer term (between your junior and senior years). If you are not taking summer school, you can subscribe to the CAS anytime during the summer. 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. Also, once the CAS Report is complete, check it for errors.
Seek national scholarships and financial aid.
Summer after Junior Year
Consider an internship related to law, or a clerical position at a law firm.
June is the ideal time to take the LSAT. Take it if you feel prepared and if you feel like you are at peak performance. Take it intending to take it only once. Do not take it as a practice run.
After you receive your LSAT result, discuss your options with a Pre Law Advisor. If your LSAT score is low, consider retaking the test, particularly if extraordinary circumstances, such as illness, hampered your ability to perform well the first time.
Continue to work on your personal statement and resume.
Pick up some old application forms and look at the essay questions. Work on your essay during the summer and have it critiqued by an advisor or instructor before the busy fall term begins.
Take a practice test 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.
During September, 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 by the middle of October, 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.
Be sure to take some time off during the summer to refresh yourself before you begin your hectic senior year.
Fall and Winter of Senior Year
Continue to do well in the classroom. Once the Fall semester is over, for any schools that either have not formally accepted you or formally rejected you, send an updated transcript showing your Fall semester grades.
Attend Resume Workshops.
Prepare for the October LSAT if you did not take the LSAT in June, or if an October re-test is needed. Take one of our preparation courses!
Register for the October LSAT by late August. If you are taking the December LSAT, you must register by the beginning of November.
If you are applying to law school for the following academic year, get all the requisite forms to CAS, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. Be sure to check your CAS report carefully when it comes back.
Once you have all of the necessary letters of recommendation, send them out. It usually is best if your letters go out shortly after your applications. While some law schools suggest that you send recommendation letters with your application, it will not pose any problems to have the letters sent separately. Although you can check to make sure your request to send your recommendations was fulfilled, it usually is best simply to wait until the law school acknowledges that your application is complete.
Prepare your personal statement. If you have difficulty, consider enrolling in one of our Personal Statement Programs.
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 as carefully as you can. With the LSAT/GPA information, narrow your "long list" to a number of schools to which you actually will send applications. Discuss your choices and plans with a Pre Law Advisor if available. Develop a strategy for your applications with "ideal" schools, "target" schools, and "safety" schools. An "ideal" school is one you would like to attend, but may require scores and grades slightly higher than yours. A "target" school is one in which your scores match fairly well with the medians at that school. A "safety" school is one where your credentials appear to be slightly superior to those receiving acceptances in the past. A good strategy is to apply to schools in each category.
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.
Watch for campus visits from law school recruiters and admissions officers and other informational meetings or panels. Attend as many visits as you can and make an effort to establish a personal connection with the recruiter. It is a good idea to be as well informed about the school that is represented ahead of time.
If you plan to seek Financial Aid, begin the application process as soon as the financial aid forms are available, fill them out and return them. 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.
Spring of Senior Year
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), check with any law schools that have not notified you that your application is complete. Most schools will send confirmation that your file is complete; if you have not received such notification, give the school a phone call asking about the status of your application.
In January, send CAS copies of your official transcript with your fall grades (unless your grades suffered badly and the schools do not require it from you).
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, senior thesis, 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. Talk with an advisor about any decisions.
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. Read any literature from the school and prepare questions on any points you want to clarify. Plan to visit with Administrators and Faculty, but also visit with students to find out what they like and dislike about the school. Direct any post-graduate employment questions to the placement office at the school. Visit the school's library. Inquire about housing.
Make your final decisions, but not until you have heard from most of your schools. Some schools may offer you fellowship money and that may 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.
Summer after Senior Year
Take courses that will either give you a head start in your graduate program or will allow you to satisfy academic deficiencies.
Share your success. Keep in touch with and thank everyone who provided support, encouragement, and assistance.
Enjoy your summer and prepare yourself for law school.