When Should I Submit My Law School Applications?

Padya Paramita

When Should I Submit My Law School Applications?

If you’re planning to apply to law school, it’s almost go-time. You’re probably aware that the applications for many top law schools open as early as August, and almost all of them are out by early September. Hopefully you’ve racked up those extracurriculars, beefed up that resumé and are happy with your LSAT score (or preparing for the next sitting). As you check in on your recommendations, while waiting for applications to be released, you might find yourself asking, “exactly when should I submit my law school applications?”

It goes without saying that the earlier you start working on your law school applications, the better. Summer is the perfect opportunity to polish your personal statement and get it out of the way so that when the moment comes to actually apply to law school, you can devote your time to the submission process. To help answer the question of “when should I submit my law school applications” we’ve outlined how to get started, the opening and closing dates for the top 20 law schools, and detailed the ideal time for you to submit your law school applications. 

How to Get Started on Your Law School Applications

The first and most painless steps in your quest to answer “when should I submit my law school applications” will be to set up the administrative details of your application. Early in your application process you should register for the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which provides law schools of your choice with your law school report. The report will consist of your transcript, LSAT scores, and letters of recommendation. 

Upon completing your registration, you can begin the arduous process of getting your college(s) to send in all relevant transcripts so that you do not have to worry about that piece when more time-intensive application work really ramps up. You can sign up for an LSAC and CAS account at any time. You do not need to sign up for CAS when you register for the LSAT, but you should sign up at least six weeks before your first law school application deadline, as it takes approximately two weeks to process the official transcript upon receipt. 

You should also plan out your letters of recommendation strategy if you haven’t already. Your recommendations should come from academic references who can talk about what you’re like in the classroom. These letters are are out of your sole control. It’s smart to start checking them off your list early. 

Opening and Closing Dates for Top Law Schools

As you ask yourself “when should I submit my law school applications,” it’s important to note that while applications are open from around September to March, the earlier you send in your application, the better. As law schools begin to accept students, the coveted spots get taken up. So, apply sooner rather than later!

Let’s take a look at the opening dates and closing dates for the top 20 law schools around the country.

School Name US News Ranking Opening Date Closing Date
Yale University 1 October 16 February 28
Stanford University 2 TBD (typically August) February 1
Harvard University 3 September 15 February 1
University of Chicago 4 September 1 March 1
Columbia University 5 September 1 February 15
New York University 6 September 1 February 15
University of Pennsylvania 7 September 1 March 15
University of Virginia 8 September 2 March 3
University of Michigan 9 September 1 February 15
Duke University 10 September 1 February 15
Northwestern University 10 September 1 February 15
University of California - Berkeley 10 August 1 February 28
Cornell University 13 September 1 February 1
Georgetown University 14 October 1 February 22
University of California - Los Angeles 15 September 1 February 1
University of Texas - Austin 16 September 1 March 1
University of Southern California 17 September 1 April 1
Vanderbilt University 18 October 1 March 15
Washington University in St. Louis 18 TBD TBD
University of Minnesota 20 September 1 June 1

As you can see, most of the law schools open their applications around the same time. While you can have many of your application components prepared, you will also be faced with some additional prompts that you won’t be able to draft too far in advance.

Even though you shouldn’t wait until the last possible day to submit, it’s still helpful to keep track of the deadline for when windows close. If you’re ready to commit to a particular school, you should also consider applying early decision in order to know your fate sooner, increase your chances, and get the process out of the way. Take a look at the dates and deadlines for notable law schools which offer early decision options. 

School Name Early Decision Deadline
University of Chicago December 1
Columbia University November 15
New York University November 15
University of Pennsylvania ED 1: November 15; ED 2: January 7
University of Michigan ED 1: November 1; ED 2: December 7
University of Virginia March 3
Duke University ED 1: November 1; ED 2: January 3
Northwestern University December 1
Cornell University ED 1: November 1; ED 2: January 9
University of Texas - Austin November 1
University of California - Los Angeles November 15
Washington University in St. Louis February 1
University of Southern California November 15
University of Minnesota January 15

Early decision 1 and 2 are both binding. You can apply for either ED round, depending on when your materials are ready. Whether you decide to apply early or during the regular admissions cycle, don’t leave your submission until the last minute.

When to Submit Your Law School Applications Ideally

While the answer to the question of “when should I submit my law school applications” varies depending on factors like your LSAT test date, you should ideally send in your applications by Halloween. If you can submit your application earlier, that’s even better! Even if Halloween is a stretch and you need more time, you should definitely send them before the big holiday rush that comes with Thanksgiving and Christmas. While many people do apply in January, it’s not the most strategic decision. A significant proportion of each law school’s class will have been admitted already. Be smart and get started early on the application components that you can anticipate and draft in advance, such as your personal statement and diversity statement. When the applications open, you can put more focus on school-specific requirements. 

As you wonder “when to submit my law school applications,” remember that the goal should always be to send in your applications as soon as possible. Follow each school’s specific guidelines and adhere to deadlines to make sure you’ve submitted all the requirements on time. Keep Halloween as a solid target date to get everything done. Hopefully you’ll have smooth sailing during the application process on your way to getting that JD. Best of luck!

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