Nearly every law school in the country features a rolling admissions process that runs from early fall to mid-to-late spring, which means that it falls to the individual students to research and determine when it is the right time to apply.
From our experience, the biggest waves of applications come at two distinct times:
1. Before Thanksgiving
2. In January
The reason for the first wave is pretty clear — ready candidates want to get their applications in as early as possible due to various rules of thumb that may or may not be true (we can cover these another time). Regardless of the reasons driving this first wave, most of the candidates applying before Thanksgiving tend to have thought things through and know what they are getting into.
With the second wave though, we see a different type of student applying — often, the candidate is coming off a holiday season spent going home to see family and friends, confronting “what do you plan to do next?” questions, and generally panicking about their future. They come back to campus for their last semester of school and decide to do what so many college seniors do when they lack a clear vision for their immediate career: they apply to law school.
With that in mind, what should this second wave consider?
For starters, any student applying after January 1st is probably in far greater need for consulting than those submitting applications during the first, pre-Thanksgiving wave. While we contend that all candidates benefit from proper consultation (given the vast improvement that one can make to his resume or personal statement with the help of an expert), it is especially important for a later applicant to seek counsel and advice from an expert. Whether that person is a consultant for a company like Veritas Prep or a qualified friend, family member, or academic advisor, getting insight from a trusted advisor is invaluable when confronting a major life decision that might be rushed or compromised by outside influences. A consultant can help candidates assess their chances of gaining success at various law schools, help select programs that make for good fits, and — most importantly — can make sure that candidates answer critical questions such as: Why a JD? Why now? Why these schools? Without giving real thought to these issues, a law school applicant is in real trouble of making a regrettable decision.
Next, a January applicant must consider the situation within admissions offices. Understand that the individuals reading applications and making admissions decisions are coming back from a short holiday break with a renewed energy to review files … but facing an ever-shrinking number of available seats in the class. So you have a reader who is generally optimistic about the task at hand, but hindered by the natural limitations of the process. It is important to tailor your personal statement and overall application accordingly: strike a positive and passionate note in your writing samples, while taking extra care to find unique traits and qualities that will help you rise above the crowd. For those applying early, it is all about mitigating any weaknesses that might keep them out, but for someone applying after the new year, the focus often must shift to the most positive story one can tell. It is about sweeping the reader off his or her feet at a time when they are predisposed to see the “good” in candidates.
Finally, understand that time is of the essence. Many make the mistake of thinking “well, I waited this long and the application deadline is March 1st, so I’ll just apply next month.” This is a surefire way to limit your chances of achieving admissions success. That optimistic glow that admissions officers bring back to the office after the holidays fades fast — in part due to human nature during the winter months and in equal measure due to the ever-shrinking number of spots available. With each passing week in January and February, admissions officers start to lose their zeal and optimism, making it much harder for you to win them over with your essays.
If you need help determining whether law school is right for you or if you are looking for help with your personal statement, resume, and overall application, call the law school admissions experts at Veritas Prep at (800) 925-7737.