Timelines


Preparation Timeline

Application Timeline


Preparation Timeline:

Freshman Year

Sophomore Year

  • Review the Coursework Guide
  • Continue to Research the Legal ProfessionASM_bookswap09_8797
  • Consider joining a pre-law organization if you haven’t already
  • Meet with a pre-law advisor to develop a timeline for taking the LSAT and applying to law school
  • Follow the Center for Pre-Law Advising on Facebook or Twitter for information on internships/events

Junior Year

Senior Year


Application Timeline:

24-18 months before you hope to enter law school

  • Create your LSAC account
  • Meet with a pre-law advisor to discuss your LSAT timeline (When will you first take it? What is your retake option?)
  • Decide how you plan to prepare for the LSAT (Commercial Course? University Course? Self-Study? How many hours can you devote to your study per week?)
  • Plan to take the June LSAT if possible; register no later than ~1 month before the test to avoid the late fee
  • Research Law Schools
  • Review the Center for Pre-Law Advising application handout on Requesting Letters of Recommendation

12-18 months before entering law school

  • Select and meet with your recommenders
  • Prepare for the September/October LSAT if necessary, either as your first test or as a retake option following the June LSAT; register no later than ~1 month before the test to avoid the late fee
  • Register for the Credential Assembly Service at lsac.org and pay the fee
  • Register for the Candidate Referral Service (free) at lsac.org if you are interested in the possibility of receiving application fee waivers
  • Select the law schools you intend to apply to (taking into account these factors); it is generally a good idea to include ~2-3 reach schools, ~2 safety schools, and ~2-3 target schools
  • Download law school applications on or around September 1
  • Review the Center for Pre-Law Advising application handouts on Personal Statements, Resumé, Transcripts, and Optional Essays and Addenda
  • Meet with a pre-law advisor to discuss your law school applications

9-12 months before entering law school

  • Attend the UW-Madison Law School Fair if possible
  • If you will be taking the October LSAT, focus on LSAT preparation through the exam date then turn immediately to your applications after the exam; otherwise begin to work on applications as soon as they become available
  • Meet with a pre-law advisor to discuss your law school applications
  • Formally request your Letters of Recommendation through LSAC
  • Draft your Personal Statement
  • Draft/revise your Resumé
  • Draft any applicable Optional Essays
  • Draft any necessary Addenda
  • Request your Transcript(s)
  • Plan to submit your applications by Thanksgiving if possible; if applying Early Decision, the deadlines are generally around November 15
  • If you are not satisfied with your October LSAT score, consult with a pre-law advisor to determine whether you should retake the exam in December

6-9 months before entering law school

  • Track your submitted applications through Status Check websites for each school
  • Take the December LSAT if necessary; plan to submit your completed applications as soon as the December score is reported (typically early January)
  • Research FAFSA deadlines and NeedAccess or other financial aid documentation requirements for each school to which you applied
  • Review the Center for Pre-Law Advising’s After You Apply Handout
  • Watch the Center for Pre-Law Advising video The Law School Admissions Process: What Happens After You Apply?
  • Take steps to advocate for your admission at any school at which you are waitlisted by submitting a Letter of Continuing Interest, scheduling a formal visit, submitting an additional letter of recommendation and/or maintaining phone/e-mail contact with the admissions office every 2-3 weeks
  • If you are still a student and applied in December or earlier, submit an updated transcript reflecting your fall semester’s grades (assuming your grades were strong)

3-6 months before entering law school

  • Continue to track your submitted applications through Status Check websites for each school
  • Try to attend the Admitted Students Day/Weekend at any school that has admitted you and that you are considering attending
  • Plan to submit a seat deposit at a law school between April 1-15 (depending on the school), even if you are currently wait listed at another school; you can always enroll in the school at which you were wait listed if admitted, even if you already placed a seat deposit at another school
  • Be sure to meet any financial aid deadlines
  • Continue to maintain phone/e-mail contact with the admissions office at any school at which you were waitlisted every 2-3 weeks; be sure to check in with the office just after the seat deposit deadline

0-3 months before entering law school

  • Continue to maintain phone/e-mail contact with the admissions office at any school at which you were waitlisted (approximately every 1-2 weeks)

Explaining the Application Timeline:

For whatever fall semester that you intend to enter law school, applications for that cycle become available in or around September one year prior. Application deadlines vary, but most range from early to late spring, 4-6 months before classes start. Because law schools use a rolling admissions process, it is not in your best interest to wait until a school’s deadline to apply. Rolling admissions means that law schools start evaluating and deciding on applications in late fall, approximately 9-10 months before classes start and well before the application deadline. Applying relatively early in the admissions process may increase your likelihood of admission because at the beginning of the process you are competing against a smaller pool of applicants for a larger number of available spots than you would later in the process.

Ideally, you should plan to apply no later than Thanksgiving unless (1) that does not give you sufficient time to prepare a strong application, or (2) you need to take the December LSAT. In more competitive years, the timing of your application was more critical to your likelihood of admission; however, the 2012-2014 application cycles have seen the fewest number of law school applicants in three decades. So it is more important that you submit a strong application than an early one. Nevertheless, you should try to submit an application that is both strong and early.

To submit applications by late November, you need to have an LSAT score on file by that time. The LSAT is offered four times per year (February, June, September/October, and December). Applicants frequently take the LSAT for the first time in September/October, 11 months before they want to enter law school, but that timing is not ideal. Applicants should use the fall to work on law school applications. In the absence of complicating factors, applicants should plan to first take the LSAT no later than June, 15 months before entering law school. Separating LSAT preparation from application preparation helps to reduce stress and allows applicants to devote greater time and attention to each. Further, by taking the June LSAT, applicants may retake the LSAT in October if necessary without any resulting delay to applications.

If it is not possible to take the June LSAT 15 months before you plan to enter law school, then aim to take the September/October LSAT, a little less than one year before you plan to enter law school. The September/October test is less ideal because if you are unhappy with your score, you will have to wait to retake the LSAT in December. This will push your application submissions to January. That’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible either. So don’t panic if this becomes necessary.