October 30, 2019

Timing and Law School Applications - When to Apply

Isaac McMahan - Diversity Research Analyst at AccessLex Institute
Diversity Programs

When the Deadline Means You're Late

Practically every law school publishes a deadline by which applications are due. These deadlines can be as early as February; most are in March and April. It is important to note, however, that these deadlines are not deadlines as we typically understand them. For example, if you pay a bill by its due date, you’re fine. It doesn’t matter if you beat the deadline by six months or six minutes.

But law school application deadlines are different – and misleading. They represent the last day applications will be accepted, but application review begins months before the deadline. Most law schools use a rolling admission process of reviewing applications, which means that applications are reviewed roughly in the order in which they are received .

Law schools typically begin reviewing applications around October – some a little earlier, others a little later. This means that people are being admitted starting in October. Every law school has a limited number of available seats in its entering class and as applicants are admitted, classes fill up. The admission process gets increasingly competitive as time progresses. As a result, by the deadline, classes are often mostly filled.

All of this means that people who apply earlier in the process tend to have better chances of admission than those who apply later. Someone who would have been a shoo-in for admission in December might be waitlisted or outright denied in March. Therefore, it is wise to submit your applications earlier in the admissions cycle, preferably by Thanksgiving, but ideally by Halloween.

“Time Is Money”
Timing also matters when it comes to scholarships. Many law schools consider applicants for scholarships once the applicants have been offered admission, similar to the rolling admission process described earlier. Law schools have a limited pool of scholarship funds, and once the money is gone, it’s gone. Therefore, again, the earlier you apply in the admission cycle, the better. Some scholarships have their own applications with traditional deadlines and are not considered on a rolling basis. Be mindful of these deadlines. And remember, it typically doesn’t hurt to be early, even when you don’t have to be.

Time Management (Applying to Law School Checklist)

The law school application is not just an application form. Schools require a number of documents to be submitted along with the form. Applying in a timely fashion requires that you have a plan for preparing and securing all the required elements of your applications. To ensure that you are on track, it may help to create a checklist for each application. For example, each applicant will be required to write and submit a personal statement alongside their applications. These documents may take a substantial amount of time to complete; applicants need to produce well-written narratives that best reflect their ability and articulate the answers required by the prompt. It must also be noted that not all of the personal statement prompts are the same, and each application should be tailored to the school in which you are applying. Sufficient time must be allocated to the drafting and review of your personal statements. Furthermore, you may wish to submit the optional Diversity Statement. If so, even more time must be accounted for to ensure that the statement best tells your story and is not duplicative of your personal statement.

In addition, each application must be accompanied by recommendation letters, and you must consider the amount of time it will take to 1) identify the best recommender, 2) schedule a time to ask for the recommendation letters,1 and 3) have your recommender complete and submit your letter.

Lastly, remember that each law school application will require most, if not all, of the following:

  • LSAT Score/GRE Score
  • Personal Statement
  • Diversity Statement
  • Optional Essays
  • Resume
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Addendum
  • Transcripts
  • CAS Report


Increase your chances of getting into law school and receiving a scholarship by applying sooner than later – preferably by Thanksgiving, ideally by Halloween if possible. Don’t wait for the deadline. And remember, applying takes time. Plan accordingly.



1 Whenever possible, it may be in your best interest to ask for recommendation letters in person.