When should you apply? Every year, this is a common applicant query. In fact, in the past two days, I have been asked this very question by no less than ten prospective students. Consequently, in keeping with the general theme of our weekly mailbag feature, you have questions, we have answers.
As a general rule, at W&L Law, sooner is better than later, and, often, the later you submit your application the more difficult it can be to gain admission. This is not to say an applicant who submits her materials in February has no chance of being admitted. On the contrary. We admit candidates every year who apply later in the admissions cycle. However, the odds are certainly not in your favor if you choose to submit your application at this late hour.
Why? It’s a simple question of statistics. We make a certain number of offers each and every year to achieve a class of a certain size. We typically make our first decisions in early to mid November and continue reviewing files on a rolling basis throughout the subsequent months. Consequently, if you apply in January or February, the admissions landscape is often considerably different than it was in November or even December. For example, after the first of the year, we have already extended a number of offers, and our class has begun to take shape. As a result, candidates who apply at this time are competing for a significantly smaller number of available seats and, as you can imagine, the competition can be quite keen. And you thought you were applying to law school to get away from math…
This proposition is particularly daunting when you consider how such numbers play out at a law school of our size. As you likely know, W&L Law a very small school (our targeted incoming class size for the Class of 2014 is about 135), and, as a result, gaining admission will always be a competitive proposition. We have long been amongst the nation’s most selective law schools. For example, last year, we received 4,582 applications (a record high and a 34% increase from 2009’s total and a nearly 70% increase from 2008’s mark), or approximately 32 applications per seat in our current first-year class. In light of such figures, you would be well served to complete your file as soon as possible.
But what if you are taking the October LSAT? In short, don’t worry. You will be fine. If your file is complete prior to the end of December, you are in a tremendous position to be a competitive applicant for admission to our law school. Furthermore, if you are admitted in one of our first waves of admissions decisions, you will likely be considered for a merit scholarship at a time when we have our full scholarship budget at our disposal. We typically make our first scholarship awards in early to mid January, so applicants who wish to be considered for a merit scholarship are encouraged to complete their application by no later than December 31. Please note, this does not mean you will not be eligible for a scholarship award if your file is complete after this date. However, as our scholarship budget is subject to certain limitations, an applicant who applies after the first of the year may very well receive a smaller award than she would have if she would have submitted her application prior to December 31.
However, before I continue, one caveat: While sooner is generally better than later, we would rather you take your time and put together a great application than rush through your materials simply to submit them early. Even if submitted later, a quality application is always better than a sloppy one, and while a month can occasionally make a difference in admissions matters, your primary concern when applying to law school should be submitting the best possible application you can. If this means you apply in January rather than December, so be it. Are you beginning to realize the only definitive truth in law school admissions is there are no definitive truths in law school admissions?
But what if you’re taking the December or February LSAT? Please know, at W&L Law, you can submit your application in a piecemeal fashion. Let me say that again: You can submit your application in a piecemeal fashion. We have gone paperless and are more than happy to receive your materials incrementally. Consequently, if you are sitting for one of these later administrations, please, please, please go ahead and submit the other constituent aspects of your file so we are only awaiting your LSAT score as opposed to a significant portion of your application materials. By proceeding in this fashion, your file will go complete and therefore be eligible for review much sooner than if you wait until you receive your test score to commence the application process. Timing isn’t everything, but it becomes particularly important when applying later in the admissions cycle.
And, please know, if you are are sitting for one of these later administrations and you already have an existing LSAT score (and would therefore be technically complete if we’ve received all your other application materials), we will hold your file for review until we receive your new score. Of course, if you would like for us to consider your file without receiving your updated score, please just let us know, and we will gladly do so.
Confused? Well, hopefully, this blog post answered some of your questions as to when you should apply to W&L Law. If not, we are more than happy to answer any remaining questions you might have. Please feel free to email any and all queries to LawAdm@wlu.edu.