As they say at the start of the famous Indianapolis 500, Ladies and gentlemen … start your engines … this year’s law school application season is about to begin.
If you’re planning to apply to law school, as the summer is drawing to a close, you should at least be in the early stages of planning key details of your application strategy. This includes familiarizing yourself with the applications as they become available. But, regardless of how far along you are at this stage, you should not be in a rush to submit your applications in the month or so after they are released. There are at least five reasons why rushing, and particularly, rushing at this early stage of the application season is not advisable.
1. Less time to Study for the October LSAT
If you’re taking the October test and either working or going to school (let alone doing all three), the last additional thing that you need to be doing is moving full speed ahead on your applications. Doing so is highly likely to cut into your study time for the test. And surely, by now, you know how critical it is that you do your best on the LSAT. Most applicants who are studying for the October LSAT will have time to finalize their applications afterwards. So, be sure to get your priorities straight.
2. Weaker Letters of Recommendation (LORs)
Another potential drawback is that those who charge ahead to file very early applications often end up with weaker letters of recommendation. The reasons for this are simple: rushed applicants are more likely to (a) make poor decisions on whom to select, (b) not take the time to prepare their recommenders with detailed background information, and (c) needlessly push their recommenders to submit their letters within a couple of weeks’ time. In short, when you rush your applications, you often rush the recommendation process as well. In order to optimize your LORs, you must properly prepare your recommenders for action.
3. Weaker Essays
There are rare cases where an applicant will immediately find just the right essay topics, develop just the right outlines, and ease all the components of their applications quickly and smoothly into place. But, if you’re thinking that this is going to be the situation that you find yourself in, the truth is that you should probably stop dreaming. You really, really cannot write your statement the way you might a college paper that’s due the next morning. On the contrary, you should keep on revising the statement until you feel that you really can’t make it any better. And just when you think you’ve finished, you should set it aside for a few days, if not a week or two, and come back to it again just to make sure that you nailed it. The bottom line is that you should never rush your statement.
4. Avoidable Application Errors
Aside from diminishing the potential quality of your LORs and essays, if you’re rushing to get your applications submitted by October, you are more likely to make several types of errors, any of which could cause reviewers to downgrade their evaluation of your candidacy. These include:
- Content-based errors, in which you provide incorrect information.
- Errors of omission, in which potentially important information is left out of the application.
- Strategic errors, in which a rushed decision leads you to include information, which although technically correct, needs better context or clarification, lest it show you in a poor light.
- Typos – Yes, even typos can be held against you.
5. A Pyrrhic Victory
With the possible exception of a very early decision deadline or an overwhelming set of additional responsibilities that you know will occupy virtually all of your time in October and November, why rush to get your applications in prior to October? On the one hand, if you have to take the October LSAT, the results of that exam won’t arrive at your chosen schools for about a month anyway. And, with rare exception, schools will not consider your application to be complete and ready to line up for review until they have your score. On the other hand, even if you’ve already got your LSAT score prior to October, mid-November is still generally considered to be the early part of the application season.
Of course if your application is truly ready to send in by October 1st, I’d be the last person to hold you back. In fact, I’m working with a couple of early-bird applicants now who have been laying the detailed groundwork for their application strategies since the start of the summer and will probably begin submitting their apps by October 1st. However, they didn’t rush. And that’s the bottom line. There’s no rush here.
Ultimately, while the law school application process is one in which early season applications can have an advantage at virtually all schools, the early part of the season extends well beyond October 1st. Moreover, this isn’t a short sprint to be run with a sudden explosive burst of speed. Rather, it’s a lengthy contest, which should be patiently and carefully planned, as well as strategically managed.
Now, where was I?
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines …