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law | opinions & advice | applying to law school
Application Strategy: Timing and Numbers
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When Do I Apply?
While law schools set application deadlines, in truth they don't matter much. No efficient admissions staff is going to wait for all the applicants before starting to make its selection. The longer you wait to apply, the slimmer your chances of acceptance. This is especially relevant for those schools with rolling admissions policies.
Candidates should also readily consider applying early admission. Early admission can give you an indication of what your chances are at other schools. It can also relieve the stress of waiting until April to see where you'll be spending the next three years of your life. Also, it's better to get waitlisted in December than April (or whenever you would be notified for regular admissions); if there is a tie among applicants on the waiting list, they'll probably admit whoever applied first. Of course, there could be some strings attached. Not every school's early admission option is the same (and many schools don't even have one).
How Many Schools Do I Apply To?
The number of schools to which you apply depends on your approach to, and budget for, the application process. Your best bet is to apply to a minimum of two reach schools, two strong possibilities and three safety schools.
A reach school is one whose students' average LSAT and GPA scores are higher than yours. Based on the numbers alone, your chances are not outstanding. Don't be discouraged from applying to one of these schools if it's your dream; just understand that it's a long shot.
A strong possibility is a school that accepts students with about the same LSAT scores and GPA as yours. Combined with a strong application, you have a good shot at gaining acceptance at one of these schools.
A safety is a school where students' average LSAT scores and GPAs are below yours. Your chances of being accepted are high
Most prospective law students apply to seven to 15 schools. Some apply to 10 reach schools with the hopes that they will gain acceptance to one. Others load up on strong possibilities and safety schools, hoping to have the greatest number of options available at decision time. Don't forget to ask yourself if you would actually attend each school if you had no other choice.
Why seven? Better safe than sorry. (Most admissions experts agree with the 2–2–3 or 2–3–2 ratios. If you feel that you must really play it safe, apply to three in each category.) It is not uncommon for students who do poorly on the LSAT and have an extremely low undergraduate GPA to apply to 15 or 20 schools that admit students with those marks