A Guide to Law Schools with Early Decision

Padya Paramita

A Guide to Law Schools with Early Decision

If you’ve set your sights on a certain dream law school, chances are that if you’re accepted, you will attend it, no questions asked. If this is you, then you should check our list of law schools with early decision to see if your top choice school is on the list. When you apply early decision, you demonstrate a high level of commitment, which law schools appreciate. With early decision policies, law schools do not have to worry about their yield rate, which impacts rankings. By applying in a smaller, early decision applicant pool, you will increase your chances of acceptance, even statistically speaking.

Early decision is a policy through which you agree to commit to a particular program if accepted. Considering early decision is binding, it’s definitely a big decision to make. If you’re accepted, you have to attend the program. To guide you through law schools with early decision, I have outlined top law programs with binding options along with the pros and cons of applying early.

Top Law Schools with Early Decision Policies

Applying early decision not only demonstrates your unwavering commitment to a certain law school, but it also ensures that you hear back early from the program. If you apply under early decision, most law schools will get back to you within 2-5 weeks of receiving your application. If you’re admitted, you get your results early, and don’t have to deal with the pressure of applying to or hearing back from multiple schools. 

It’s important to note that not all law schools offer early decision options. Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Vanderbilt are some of the most prestigious programs that do not have a separate early deadline. The table below lists top 30 law schools (as ranked by US News) that have early decision policies: 

Law School with Early Decision ED Deadline
University of Chicago December 1
Columbia University November 15
New York University November 15
University of Pennsylvania November 15 (ED 1); January 7 (ED 2)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor November 1 (ED 1); December 7 (ED 2)
University of California - Berkeley November 13 (with $25,000 scholarship guaranteed per year)
University of Virginia March 4
Duke University November 1 (ED 1); January 3 (ED 2)
Northwestern University December 1 (with $50,000 scholarship guaranteed per year)
Cornell University November 1 (ED 1); January 9 (ED 2)
Georgetown University February 1
University of Texas—Austin November 1
University of California — Los Angeles November 15
Washington University in St. Louis February 1 (Full tuition scholarship guaranteed)
University of Southern California November 15
University of Minnesota January 15
Boston University November 14 (Distinguished Scholar Early Decision Program with full tuition merit scholarship guaranteed) January 9 (“BU Bound” Early Decision Program)
Emory University March 1
George Washington University February 1
University of Notre Dame November 15
Arizona State University November 15 (Non-Binding) March 1 (Binding early decision deadline for various scholarships)

If your dream program is included among the list of law schools with early decision, carefully note the deadline. Some schools have 2 ED rounds — so if you’re still waiting for your LSAT score, or you’re polishing your personal statement and miss the round 1 deadline, you can still apply round 2 and display your loyalty to the institute.

The deadlines might seem a bit delayed for University of Virginia, Georgetown, and Notre Dame — but these are the last dates of submission. These schools will still let you know by 2-3 weeks of receiving your application materials, no matter when you submit.

Pros and Cons of Applying Early Decision

If you’re still deciding whether or not you want to apply to one of the law schools with early decision and take the binding route, it helps to weigh the pros and cons. Understandably, applying ED to law school has its advantages and disadvantages. 

The Pros

  • Early notification: Most law schools with early decision applications due in November will let students know by December. If you apply in the regular decision round on the other hand, sometimes you won’t hear back until March or April. Getting accepted into your ED school can relieve pressure far in advance, and you may not even have to work on your other applications.
  • Smaller applicant pool: As I’ve said before, even statistically speaking, applying during the early decision round increases your chances of acceptance. Law schools receive thousands of applications every year, but a significantly lower number during the ED round. So, aside from conveying your dedication towards the school, applying early also guarantees that you’ll have less competition.
  • Better chances at a reach school: Your GPA and LSAT score are two of the most important factors when it comes to your law school admissions decision. If your numbers are slightly below the median range at your dream school, consider applying early decision so that you aren’t competing against as many students with impressive statistics. Of course, make sure that you’re ready and don’t submit a haphazard application!

The Cons

  • Earlier deadline: Students applying to one of the law schools with early decision might find themselves scrambling to submit all of their materials if the application is due in November. If you want to apply ED, you’re going to have to get your act  together quicker than you might anticipate doing so for other applications. But ideally, you should be aiming to submit all your applications by Halloween anyway, if not before Christmas. So, if you plan accordingly, you shouldn’t have any problem with the earlier date.
  • The binding agreement: If you’re applying to a JD program early decision, you’re committing to attend a school. Hypothetically, suppose your top choice law school doesn’t offer early decision — to secure your chances you apply early decision to a different program and are accepted. You might be left wondering what would have happened had you waited to apply to your actual top choice. But, since you made the commitment, you have to attend your second-choice school.
  • Aid isn’t guaranteed: If you apply to a law school early decision, you’re agreeing to attend a program without necessarily knowing how much scholarship you’ll receive. You might end up getting a really low aid package and left confused about your choices. However, schools like Northwestern and Berkeley do have guaranteed scholarships for early admits, so if finances are an issue, make sure that you choose a school that you can afford to attend.

Choosing to apply to one of the law schools with early decision isn’t a call that should be made lightly. Once you’ve ensured that your top choice school has ED options, make note of the deadline, weigh the pros and cons, and if you’ve decided this is the right call, start preparing your application. Hopefully, the outcome is positive, and you’ll spend the next few years at a place where you’re a strong fit. Good luck!

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