Determine the Right Time to Apply to Law School

Shawn P. O'Connor

You have made the decision to go to law school. Perhaps you want to go this year, or perhaps you are not sure of the right time to apply. You should decide quickly whether you will apply this year, next year or further down the line.

There is no one right time to apply to law school. For some, applying during college is the best move; for others, taking one or more years off in between is beneficial.

The only right time to apply to law school is when you are ready, and this will vary from student to student. Consider the answers to the following four questions in deciding when to apply.

1. Will time off between college and law school hurt my odds of getting in? Many applicants worry that taking time off between college and your law school applications will make them less competitive, but that is not the case.

Admissions committees do not factor time off into their decisions -- instead, they focus on your fit for the school, GPA, LSAT score, essays, recommendations, background and what you accomplished during your time off after college.

So, when you are making your decision about when to submit your applications, do not worry about how the timing will reflect on you.

[Learn how to craft an application to a top-tier law school.]

2. Am I ready for law school classes? Your first year, known as the 1L year, will be the most important of all three years spent attaining your law degree.

This is because your 1L grades are the only grades that hiring firms will be able to evaluate when you apply for 2L summer internships. Your 2L summer internship can determine your employment after graduation -- many firms end up hiring their interns and consider the 2L summer internship a dress rehearsal for the job. If you do not receive a job offer, then the references and prestige of your internship will affect your job prospects after graduation.

Because your 1L grades are so important, you need to ensure that you are prepared for the challenge before you fill out your law school applications. You do not want to enroll in a law program only to struggle.

I took four years off between undergrad and law school because I preferred to gain experience and have some time off from school to be fully ready for that all-important first year.

[Check out the law schools that get the most applications.]

3. Should I take my parents' advice? Many students rush to begin law school because others, usually parents, are encouraging them to move forward quickly. However, no applicant should let others, even their parents, determine the right move for them.

While they do have your best interests in mind, only you know what the best decision is for you.

[Find out how rolling law school admissions can affect you.]

4. When should I take the LSAT? Regardless of the right time for you to apply, I recommend taking the LSAT during college. You will probably have more time as a student than as a professional to study for the exam, and you are already in an academic mode so it may be easier to focus. Your LSAT score is good for five years, so you can take it during college and apply years later if desired.

Overall, do what is best for you when it comes to law school applications. If you feel ready and are excited to get started, you may wish to go soon after graduating from college.

If you know you want to go to law school but want some time to work -- perhaps as a paralegal -- to confirm your legal aspirations and save up some cash, that will not reflect negatively on your applications and can benefit you in the long run.

When are you applying to law school? Let me know in the comments, email me at or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.