As the year comes to a close, I want to remind all law school applicants who have not yet submitted their materials that staying on track is of paramount importance to your admissions success.
Some schools list priority deadlines on their websites and claim that prospective students who submit law school applications by that date will receive priority consideration. However, applying by the priority deadline isn't necessarily a bonus -- often, it's more that applying after it presents a severe disadvantage.
All law school applicants should think of the priority deadline as a hard cutoff for submission to give them the best chance possible of admittance. Admissions committees may consider applications submitted past the priority deadline, but that is not guaranteed.
[Understand how rolling admissions can affect law school applicants.]
If you are applying to safety schools, you may get away with doing so past the priority deadline, but it is not recommended for target schools and certainly not for stretch schools.
Many law schools, particularly highly ranked institutions, simply set a firm deadline rather than permitting rolling applications because they do not have trouble filling seats with quality students. In those cases, you have no choice but to apply by the date on the school's website.
With most priority deadlines between January and March, check out the three tips below to stay on track and make deadlines your priority this winter.
[Find out how to craft an application for a top law school.]
1. Work on your applications a little bit each day: With school, work and other commitments, it is easy to lose track of time as you labor on law school applications. A key to staying on pace is to dedicate daily time to your applications, even if it is just 30 minutes each day. If you are able to maintain this regimen, you should have no trouble submitting by the priority deadline.
2. Keep a calendar: You should have a calendar that includes all your schools' deadlines. If possible, use a printed calendar and hang it someplace visible. In addition to deadlines, consider including benchmarks, such as when you wish to have your essays completed or when you expect your recommenders to submit their letters.
3. Put less-urgent obligations on the back burner: Depending on exactly when your deadlines fall, you could have one to three months left to finish your applications. Clearly, you need to continue to attend class, work or fulfill other necessary obligations, but if possible, hold off on other commitments until you submit your applications if you need the additional time to compile your materials.
For example, if you are in school and you also hold a part-time job, see if you can get a month or two off. If you volunteer outside of work, speak to the organization about taking a leave and resuming your work after your applications are done. An extra couple of hours per week can reduce the pressure of finishing your applications on time and allow you to craft more compelling submissions.
[Learn which law schools get the most full-time applications.]
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to meet the priority deadline for a particular school, you can still submit on the rolling system. Be prepared, however, for the possibility that there may not be seats left. You may be put on the waitlist or denied admission, and so be prepared to regroup and try again next year.