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It is crucial to keep track of what each law school expects and requires for the various elements of your application. Although the law school application process seems fairly formulaic, law schools can vary widely as to their own requirements for your application.
We suggest that you make a list of all schools to which you're applying, and keep track of differences for each school--information is available on their respective websites. Some areas in which schools often differ are:
- What application method do they prefer?
- What is their application deadline? Do they offer Early Decision or Early Action? What are those deadlines?
- How many essays do they ask for? Are any optional? How many words/pages should each one be?
- Do they want you to list your work experience and activities on a specific form, in addition to submitting a resume?
- How many letters of recommendation do they want? Is there a limit to how many they will accept or read?
Summer before applying
Law school applications are not available until mid-August or September, so it is not possible to begin the process fully during the summer. However, you can do a number of things to get a head-start on the process.
Review this Website and the Law School Admission Council's information on Applying to Law School, especially the checklist!
Decide where to apply
Decide whom you will ask for letters of recommendation
Prepare for the LSAT
Begin work on your personal statement
Download and submit your transcript request form(s)
If you plan to take the October LSAT, and require accommodated testing, be sure to begin the process of applying for accommodations by mid-summer
IMPORTANT: Bear in mind that it has become increasingly important to apply early (either by early decision or action programs, or by simply submitting your applications well in advance of the deadline), since the number of law school applications has increased so markedly over the past few years. Do all that you can to complete your applications by early to mid-November for the best chance of admission--applications submitted in December will still have a good chance. However, the closer you get to a law school's actual admissions deadline, the greater the danger of being caught in a situation where schools with rolling admissions policies have already filled most of their class spots.
If you have not yet taken the LSAT, sign up for the October exam
Register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS)
Submit the LSAC fee waiver form, if needed
Download the Transcript Request Form from your LSDAS account and give it to the Registrar's Office at Amherst and at other schools (if necessary)
Attend an “Applying to Law School Workshop”: watch the Career Center Calendar for details
Attend Law School Panels--watch the Career Center Calendar for details
Check out the resources in the Career Center resource library law section
Finalize the list of schools to which you will apply--check their websites for specifics about their application process
Make an appointment (or use Open Hours) with the Pre-Law Advisor to get your specific questions answered
Review each law school's recommendation requirements and give letter of recommendation forms to your professors
Give Dean's Certification form, along with properly addressed and stamped envelopes, to the Pre-Law Advisor
Pursue whichever method of applying you've chosen
Use electronic applications offered by the various schools' websites and LSAC, or request paper applications from schools (some still offer a paper option, others only accept electronic applications)
Work on your personal statement/essay(s)--attend a "Composing Yourself" Workshop, consult with the Writing Center or see materials in the Career Center for help
This is the time when your applications should be coming together. Remember that the Pre-Law Advisor is available to meet with you about particular questions you may have.
- Review your Law School Admission Council Summary Report to make sure there are no errors in reading your transcript or reporting your scores
- If your October LSAT score is not what you'd hoped, or if you have not yet taken the LSAT, be sure to register for the December test date
- Check with your recommenders to see if they have submitted your letters of recommendation
- Send in your applications!
If you haven't yet submitted your applications, get them in as soon as you can. If you've submitted your applications, monitor your files at the law schools to which you've applied to make sure the various elements of your application have been received
Visit the schools to which you've applied and talk with current students and alumni of those schools
Submit another LSDAS Transcript Request form to the Registrar's Office so that your file will be updated with your fall semester grades
Continue to monitor your files at law schools, to be sure that all elements of your application have been received
February and beyond
The process of waiting to hear whether or not you've been accepted to law schools can be stressful and frustrating. Be sure you understand how this process really works, so that your expectations are not unrealistic. Remember that, if your application is put on hold or you're wait-listed, there are things you can do to help your cause.
Once you've received an acceptance and decided to attend a given school, be sure to notify the other schools to which you've applied of your decision. (Have you visited your chosen school? If not, it's a good idea to do so before making a final decision.) Upon graduation, arrange for the Registrar to send a final transcript (showing degree) to your law school.
As strenuous as it is to prepare all of your law school applications, most applicants agree that it's probably even more difficult to wait for law school decisions after your applications are in. Be sure to contact your law schools to determine that your application file is complete, with no elements missing. Most schools will not even look at your file until it is complete.
If your application is put on hold, or if you are wait-listed, be sure to follow through by submitting further information for your file.
When will I hear whether or not I've been accepted?
There is no firm answer to this question. It varies by school, but most law schools use a “rolling admissions” method--they'll decide as applications are completed whether an applicant is an “instant admit,” an “instant decline,” or put “on hold” to be considered with the larger pool after the actual application deadline has passed. This means you could hear some news early on; however, if you don't hear early, DON'T PANIC! It doesn't mean you won't be accepted.
Most applicants will hear news of their status by late March to mid-April. Check with your schools to determine when they generally notify applicants about admissions decisions. If you have applied Early Action or Early Decision to any schools, you will most likely hear of their decision by the end of December to mid-January.
What do I do if I'm wait-listed or put “on hold”?
Different law schools use the term “on hold” in different ways. It can mean that they are holding your application to consider with the larger pool after the application deadline, it can mean that the law school has had to extend its decision-making process past the advertised notification date, or it could mean something else. If you are notified that your application is “on hold,” use some of the strategies described below to update and bolster your application file.
If you're wait-listed, it's common practice for an applicant to send additional materials to the law school to strengthen their application file. Examples of materials to send might be:
- Additional letters of recommendation
- Additional writing samples (a chapter of a thesis, a highly-graded paper, etc.)
- A letter restating your keen interest in the school, and any updates on your academic status, awards or honors, work experience, etc. Don't be shy about letting a law school know that you would definitely attend that school if accepted--this can be good information for them to know.
At some point, you'll need to make the decision about where you will attend law school in the fall and put down a hefty deposit there, even if you've been wait-listed at your top-choice school and haven't yet heard anything. Not much can be done about this, and it happens fairly often. But there can still be some hope. Lore has it that an Amherst graduate had decided to attend Law School B, having been wait-listed at his first-choice, Law School A. While en route to Law School B that fall to move into law school housing, he heard from Law School A that he had been accepted. He turned the car around and headed for Law School A, forfeiting his deposit at School B but happy to have won his goal.
Being wait-listed is a tough situation to be in. Put your best self forward, let the school know of your interest by supplying additional materials, and stay positive. The Pre-Law Advisor is happy to speak with you about your situation.