Applying to Law School in January? Hopeless or Hopeful?

Applying to Law School in January? Hopeless or Hopeful?
Ann Levine of Law School Expert and author of “The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert” has some law school advice for prospective law students.

Yes, law schools have already admitted, rejected, and waitlisted people. They have already given out scholarships. December LSAT results are being released later this year than ever before, pushing application time back even later. Will applying in January negatively impact your chances of getting into law school?

While applying in January isn’t ideal, and certainly isn’t advisable, it isn’t necessarily too late to get in, even to top law schools. Last year, I had law school admission consulting clients who got into Harvard, NYU, Columbia, etc. with December LSAT scores, proving that it’s not too late. But February is too late: January is your chance to be competitive for Fall 2011 admission.

I asked some current law students who applied in January in 2010 and 2009 how they felt they fared applying late:

Brian Bah (1L, UT-Austin)
“I think during my first application cycle, I didn’t apply until late December/early January. Plus, it took until the beginning of February until one of my professors finally faxed in his recommendation. I think I had a pretty predictable cycle. The biggest disadvantage was that it hurt my chances at a scholarship from Emory, since they told me they had already given out most their scholarships by the time they accepted me. I still was able to get scholarship offers from other schools though. I even managed to get a scholarship from Notre Dame being accepted off the waitlist.”

Obair Qudsi (2L, U. of Iowa) “I believe I finished some, if not most of my applications in January. I still got into Iowa!”

Sabyl Cohen Landrum (1L, UC-Irvine)
“I applied mid to late January last year. I think the only school where it almost certainly made a difference was for Northwestern because I missed the deadline to do an alumni interview. Otherwise my results were not too far off from expected based on my numbers, except that some wait lists may have been accepts had I applied earlier. I also received several scholarship offers, even though I was too late to apply to certain named scholarships at some schools. And the best part about applying late is I had a shorter wait for an answer than some people who applied in October and were still waiting in decisions in March and April. In the end, everything worked out as well as it could have and I love UC Irvine.”

Give yourself a deadline of January 31st to submit all applications.
Here are 3 tips for getting applications submitted ASAP:

1.Make sure transcripts and letters of rec are processed at LSAC. These are longer lead-time items that you don’t want to hold up applications for. If you’re having problems with people sending letters of rec, remember that they can be faxed and that some schools will accept online evaluations this year in lieu of a traditional letter of rec.

2.Apply first to schools that only have a simple application (without short-answer responses) and want a standard personal statement. Get those done and out the door before you tackle schools that want optional essays, school-specific essays, and/or short-answer responses.

3.Don’t waste time on law school discussion forums – just apply to schools.

The bottom line: it’s not too late – yet: don’t even think about retaking the LSAT in February!

17 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jodi Triplett. Jodi Triplett said: Ann Levine's advice about applying to #lawschool in January. […]

  2. John says:

    Helpful post. I noticed that the testimonials you listed were for schools outside the Top 10. I got a good score on my Oct LSAT but not a great score. I’m feeling better about Dec but am obviously waiting on that. I am wrapping up my personal statement and will get apps all in and finalized by Saturday. Will there be spots at T10 schools for a strongish candidate, assuming I did as well on the Dec exam as I’m feeling?

  3. Ann Levine says:

    Hi John,
    Last year, I had a December LSAT taker get into Harvard and Columbia, and another who is now attending NYU. In these cases, apps were submitted before LSAT scores were received but the files were not reviewed until after the December LSAT results were released. Of course, that’s happening a week later than usual this year, but it’s just one week.

  4. Peter says:

    Hi Ann,
    This post was encouraging, but after seeing some graphs depicting acceptances by date of application submission, I’m unsure of how to gauge my chances. I sent all of my applications except for Yale in over the past week. Some of the applications are already complete and others will be complete once the schools match my law school report with my file. I would really like to get into NYU or Columbia and my numbers are right at the medians. I am also coming out of a top 5 undergrad institution. Do you think applying this late will severely hurt my chances, or do I have a reasonable chance? Also, there is some debate as to whether applying late hurts one’s chances of being admitted to Yale. Could you shed some light on this issue?

    • Ann Levine says:

      Hi Peter,
      At this point, the timing is what it is so worrying about the outcome isn’t incrdibly productive. If you get your decisions and they aren’t favorable then you will know to submit applications earlier in the fall 2012 cycle. Yale is probably the one school where submitting in january isn’t a a big deal because they don’t operate on a traditional rolling admission system.
      I apologize for any typos since I am responding from my phone. The basic answer is that I wish you’d been able to apply earlier but there is nothing you can do about that now. I believe in worrying only about the things still within our control.

  5. sarah says:

    Why would schools say the deadline is March if you are saying the deadline is January? That doesn’t make any sense!

    • Ann Levine says:

      The deadline isn’t January. But schools operate on rolling admission, so by the time you submit your applications in March the entire class has been admitted/rejected/waitlisted and scholarships have been given out. If your numbers are high for a school they might make room for a February/March applicant, but you’re not going to get into a reach school this way.

  6. Celene says:


    My applications are ready to go. All I need is my LSAT score. I have heard that I can apply to schools before the December LSAT score is released. I was wondering how I can do this since I did not see this option in the applications I completed.

  7. JB says:

    Hi Ann.
    I want to start law school next Fall and I am considering applying now, in December. For most of the applicants with my GPA and LSAT score the school I am hoping to attend offers scholarships (between 33% – 100%). Here is my question: Would I dramatically increase my chances of getting a greater scholarship by waiting until the next cycle and being the first one to apply?

    And if I do apply this year and get a low scholarship offer, will doing so hurt my chances of getting a fresh, higher offer next cycle?


    • Ann Levine says:

      Hi JB, great question,
      applying in December, or even January, during the current cycle (for Fall 2015 admission) will make you competitive for scholarships. You have nothing to lose by trying this year. There would be no great advantage to being the first application in the door next cycle. I hope it all turns out great for you.

  8. Jordan says:

    I took the December LSAT and am currently working on my applications. I have an LSAT score from 2011 that is active but very low. I am expecting a pretty significant increase in my score. Should I wait to submit applications until my December LSAT scores have arrived, or does that matter–will the schools I am applying to know that I have another LSAT score coming?


  9. Sharon says:

    I decided to apply for law school in late fall, and began studying for the LSAT then. However, due to a death of someone close to me, I had to travel to attend a funeral on the same day as the December LSAT, so I won’t be able to take the exam until February.

    I’ve been out of school for eight years and have extensive experience, including as a non-profit executive, graduate coursework, and several years of international development work in a developing country. I didn’t have a great GPA as an undergrad, but my practice tests indicate that I’ll do very well on the LSAT. I’d like to go to a top tier school, and I’d like to have a good chance of getting scholarship support. Should I wait until the next application cycle, or will I still have a decent chance of reaching those goals if I apply toward the end of the admissions cycle?

    • Greg Nix says:

      Hi Sharon! It is possible to go to a great school and get offered a substantial scholarship even if you take the February exam, but your chances are significantly narrower than if you apply at the beginning of application season in October. That said, as long as you think you’ll do well on the exam, there’s no reason not to give it a try. The worst that could happen is that you don’t get the admissions/scholarship combo you want this year, and you apply again next year.

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