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An Undergraduate Timeline for Applying to Law School
The following article, written by TLS user and forum moderator YCRevolution, provides a suggested timeline for applying to law school for current undergraduate students planning on enrolling after graduating college. Published October 2010, last updated August 2010.
Junior year (pre-May)/ Sixteen-plus months before the start of law school
- Spend some significant time considering whether and why you want to go to law school. The legal job market is saturated with attorneys and a JD is not an automatic one-way ticket to riches. Depending on your goals, it may only make sense to attend a Tier 1 (top-50) law school or perhaps only a top-14 school.
- Once you have decided on law school, earning and maintaining a good undergraduate GPA should be your primary focus.
- Start thinking about who you want to write letters of recommendation.
- If you have any outstanding financial obligations at any current/past educational institutions, take care of them if possible.
- If you’re planning on taking the June LSAT, register for it in January (especially if you’ll be taking it in a “popular” testing location, like Washington D.C.) and begin studying and preparing for it in March.
- Gather and consolidate information for any and all traffic offenses, academic sanctions (probation, suspension, plagiarism, etc.), and criminal charges you’ve incurred - even if you were not convicted.
- Begin saving money for LSAT preparation and law school application fees. If you’re planning to take an LSAT class, set aside a couple thousand dollars. Application fees can run upwards of $80 per school and even if you get a CRS fee waiver you’ll still need to pay the LSAC $12 each time you send your LSAC report (with LSAT and transcript information) to a law school.
End of junior year (May) / Fifteen months before the start of law school
- Request that your school’s registrar’s office send a current (or final, if graduated) transcript to the LSAC for processing. Register for an LSAC account if you have not already done so.
- If you are taking the LSAT in September/October, begin acquiring old LSATs and LSAT preparation books. If you’re planning on taking a summer LSAT class, register for the class. If you are planning on sitting for the September LSAT, register for the test now.
- If sitting for the upcoming June LSAT, ensure that your practice test scores are in the range you want for the actual LSAT; if your scores are not where you want them, strongly consider postponing the LSAT until September.
Rising senior summer (June-July) / Thirteen to fourteen months before the start of law school
- Study for the September LSAT and/or take the June LSAT.
- Take an inventory of all of your extracurricular involvements and leadership positions and update your Resume.
- Start thinking about a personal statement topic as well as a diversity statement and other addendums if applicable. If you have any criminal convictions or academic sanctions, you will definitely need an addendum addressing the conviction. In some cases, you may even need an addendum for traffic offenses.
- Draft a preliminary list of law schools you’d want to attend. If you aren’t sure which schools you’d have a realistic chance at being admitted to, check out a calculator like LawSchoolPredictor.com to help (using a practice LSAT score if needed).
Start of senior year (August) / Twelve months before the start of law school
- Continue studying for the September LSAT if you did not take the June LSAT (or you were unhappy with your June LSAT score).
- Meet with your recommenders and request that they write you a letter of recommendation which will be sent to the LSAC.
- Write rough drafts of your personal statement topic as well as diversity statements and other addendums, if applicable.
Fall semester of senior year, first-half (September-October)/ Ten to eleven months before the start of law school
- Take the September LSAT, if applicable. If you are unhappy with your score, and believe that you can do substantially better, register for the December LSAT as soon as you receive your September LSAT score.
- Ensure that your recommenders have sent your letters of recommendation to the LSAC. Gentle reminders are acceptable.
- Make sure you’re still improving/maintaining your undergraduate GPA.
- If you’re planning on applying to schools that require a dean’s certification, get started completing it now.
- Write the final draft of your personal statement topic as well as a diversity statement and other addendums, if applicable. Have someone else (preferably multiple people) proofread and comment on your personal statement.
- If you took the June LSAT and are happy with your score, ready and begin submitting your applications as soon as possible. Most schools start accepting applications in September and applying early is always advantageous.
- If you did not take the June LSAT or took it again in September and you are planning on applying to non-binding early action programs and/or a binding early decision program you should submit your application as soon as you have your September score if not earlier.
Fall semester of senior year, second-half (November-December) / Eight to nine months before the start of law school
- If you haven’t done so already, submit your applications. Only delay if you are retaking the LSAT in December (and plan to get a substantially higher score). Sit for the December LSAT, if applicable.
- Make sure law schools have received your application materials (allow a couple of weeks for schools to receive and file your application.)
- If you’ve started hearing back from schools make sure to keep track of if/when scholarship money information will be transmitted.
Spring semester of senior year, first-half (January-February)/ Six to seven months before the start of law school
- Collect your tax information and file your taxes as soon as possible. You should strongly encourage your parents to do the same if you’re under 30 (the actual age varies from school to school). This will make the financial aid process a lot easier.
- With your tax information, fill out FAFSA as well as any institutional aid forms a particular law school may require.
- If you have new grades from the fall semester, have your school’s registrar’s office send an updated copy of your transcript to the LSAC. Some schools may also request that you send an update of your grades directly to the school.
- If you’re still in school and are missing graduation requirements, make sure you take the appropriate steps necessary to ensure that you graduate at the end of the semester.
- If you want to visit a school during their admitted students’ day/weekend, began considering travel arrangements now.
Spring semester of senior year, second-half (March-April)/ Four to five months before the start of law school
- Visit schools during their admitted students’ day/weekend. A number of schools help defray the expenses involved with travelling through reimbursements.
- If you’ve been waitlisted at a school you really want to attend, now would be a good time to send a letter of continuing interest.
- Notify schools to which you’ve been admitted but do not wish to attend, that you wish to withdraw your application.
- Compare scholarship offers and consider negotiating those scholarship offers and/or asking a school that did not offer you a scholarship to consider the possibility.
- If you’re still in school, make sure you graduate.
- Figure out how you’re going to finance law school. Apply for federal graduate student loans (Stafford and Grad Plus) as needed, and do your best to avoid unnecessary fees. Some schools are direct lenders, but other schools will require you to find your own lender (such as College Foundation of North Carolina or Discover).
- Non-refundable deposits will be due in April. Don’t put down a deposit at school which you have no intention of attending, it’s a waste of money and there are other waitlisted applicants who want your seat.
Summer before law school (May-August)/ Zero to three months before the start of law school
- Secure housing in your law school’s locale. Try to do this sooner rather than later.
- If you’ve just graduated, send you final transcript (indicating that you graduated) to your law school.
- Schedule cancellation of utilities at your old address, and initiation of utility services at your new address. File a moving/change-of-address form with the USPS. Update your address with your financial institutions and the IRS (if you’re expecting and have not yet received a tax refund).
- If you’re a male between 18-25, make sure to register your new address with the SSS within ten days of moving. If you’ve never registered with the SSS and should have, you need to get on top of it pronto.
- If you’re making an interstate move, check the vehicle registration and driver’s license laws in the state you’re moving to, because you may need to register your vehicle and obtain a driver’s license in your new state.
- Update your resume with your graduation and/or new law school.
- If there is a school where you’re waitlisted that you would definitely attend if admitted, make sure to let the school know about this and your continuing interest.
- Second/final deposits usually become due in June. It is strongly advised that you do not pay a final deposit to more than one school.
- Keep an eye on financial aid information and resolve any discrepancies or errors immediately. Enjoy law school!
Interview with Andrea Kilpatrick, Director of Law Admissions at Admit Advantage
An Introduction to Law School Admissions Strategy
An Undergraduate Timeline for Applying to Law School
Law School Letters of Recommendation Advice
Writing a Law School Addendum
Professional Law School Resume
Law School Residency Issues by State
Early Decision and Early Action FAQ
The TLS Guide To Fee Waivers
URM (Under-Represented Minority) Application FAQ
Introduction to the JD/MBA Dual Degree
Introduction to the JD/MA Dual Degree
Pre-Law School Programs Geared Toward URM (Under-Represented Minority) Applicants
Law School Applications - Ken's Successes and Regrets
A Guide To Law School Prediction Calculators
Writing an Effective “Why X” Addendum
How to Write an Effective Addendum
Law School Decision Dates 2009-2010
Law School Decision Dates 2008-2009