By Caroline Fuchs
Law school application season is upon us! If you are like most applicants, your to-do list probably feels insurmountable. There is a lot to get done to meet your application deadline goals. If you do not already know, law schools admit on a rolling basis – so earlier is better. At Galin, we recommend that our applicants apply early in the cycle and ideally submit applications by the Thanksgiving holiday. The key to submitting early is planning and organization. Here are some helpful tips to help avoid unnecessary delays in submitting your applications.
1. Request transcripts early. I frequently see applicants panic because they waited until the last minute to request their transcripts resulting in application delays. You must obtain a transcript from every college or university you attended. Yes, this includes college classes you took in high school. In some cases, you must also submit transcripts for college courses taken abroad. Be sure to closely read the LSAC transcript requirements and request the necessary transcripts NOW. Transcripts must be sent directly from an institution’s registrar’s office or an approved transcript transfer service. It can take time for requests to process. Additionally, it can take LSAC up to two weeks to process your transcripts once received. So, request them as early as possible.
2. Set a deadline for your Letter of Recommendation (LOR) writers. If you have not reached out to letter writers, do it immediately. For those with confirmed writers, you should contact them and (politely) give a clear deadline. Every year, I have at least one LOR writer disappear on an applicant. For many, tasks with vague deadlines, weeks in the future, tend to get shoved to the back burner. Academics and other professionals are busy and they procrastinate too. Setting a clear deadline for LOR writers can help them prioritize it in their schedule. It also gives you timely notice if a LOR writer is going to drop-out so you can contact a replacement.
3. Select your schools. It may seem obvious, but many applicants put together a list of schools without a lot of research. This always leads to a scramble at the last minute to add new schools and results in late and sloppy applications. Considerations for where to apply should go beyond T-14, where you think you can get in, and who will give you the most money. Certainly rank, cost, and being realistic about admissions outcomes are important. But, there are a lot of factors that you should evaluate. It is particularly true if you already have a practice area in mind. Not all law schools are the same. You need to be confident that the school you choose will give you the tools you need to not only land a job but be successful as a new attorney. I recommend attending a law school forum or fair in September or October. It is a great way to meet with admissions officers and learn more about schools.
4. Open applications first. Every year I have applicants who complete most of their application materials before even looking at an official application. Opening and reading individual applications should be a first step, not the last. While many personal statement prompts are general, and many applications have similar requirements, there is no common application. Mid-November is too late to learn that you have to develop new written materials or significantly modify your personal statement.
5. Start your personal statement early. Two pages double spaced may not seem like a heavy lift after years of writing 20+ page research papers. But, applicants are always surprised by how long it takes to draft their personal statement. It takes time and many drafts to create a focused and concise narrative about oneself. It is not a weekend project. The personal statement can be the “difference maker” for an applicant and should be treated with the same importance as your LSAT and your grades.