Just a few years ago, law school apps were down so low that you could submit your applications in February and still have a decent shot at admission in many places. This is no longer the case! With application rates back up, the ideal law school admissions timeline has you submitting your applications by the end of December.
With that said, some law schools do accept applications through February. If you’ve only just decided to apply, there is a chance you’ll get in. But you’ll have a far better shot if you apply in December or earlier.
What’s Going On with Law School Admissions?
Between 2010 and 2017, law schools experienced a significant drop in applicants: 37%, to be precise. However, those applications have gone back up recently: in 2020, applications rose 56% over the previous year (source). This year, LSAC reports a 2021 admissions cycle that already includes 21% more applicants (to date) than in 2020.
Competitive Applicant Field
More applicants overall also mean a more competitive applicant field. According to the National Jurist, LSAT scores went up significantly between 2016 and 2019, with 36% of applicants scoring 160+ in 2019. This is a tough field, particularly when average LSAT scores still hover around 150.
Similarly, from 2018-2019, the average GPA of admitted students went up, from 3.43 to 3.47. This wasn’t true across the board—GPAs were frozen at eight schools and went down at 45—but they did go up at 146, the vast majority of them.
What This Means for Your Law School Admissions Timeline
More applicants, higher GPAs, higher LSAT scores—none of these anything to do with when you submit your own law school applications. At least, not directly. But as a future lawyer, you know that the indirect impact your law school admissions timeline may be strong all the same. Here’s why.
First of all, these highly motivated students are likely to apply early. This means that next years’ law school classes at top schools may already be filled up by January for that fall. By waiting to submit your application, you put yourself at a disadvantage.
In addition, law school admissions committees have an increasing range of high-scoring, straight-A students to pick from. If you have a weak area in your application (like low LSAT scores or grades), you’re less likely to get the benefit of the doubt when they determine who should get one of their few remaining spaces in late January or February. And that’s if they have any left to begin with.
Okay, But I Didn’t Submit in December, and Now It’s February. Is It Still Worth Applying?
Maybe—depending on your situation. If you can afford the application fee (or have an application fee waiver) and want to see what will happen, there’s no harm in trying. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t get in, and you can apply again next year with more life experience (and perhaps higher LSAT scores, if you retake the test).
If time or money is scarce right now, though, you’ll give yourself a far better shot at your dream school by waiting for the next admissions cycle.