If you’re wondering how to apply to law school and are looking for some guidance and tips—you’ve come to the right place. The application process can be quite overwhelming for many students, but the fact of the matter is, the application process in itself is fairly simple and structured.

The only requirements to be able to apply to law school include the successful completion of a bachelor’s degree and the completion of a law school admissions exam—generally the LSAT. Students will also likely encounter specific law school-dependent requirements, such as essay and addendum writing, and submission of letters of recommendation. It’s typically in a student’s best interest to focus on their law school application one step at a time, and conquering the LSAT is likely going to be a student’s best starting point (aside from earning a bachelor’s degree, of course).

How to apply for law schoolHow long do law school applications take? In reality, the law school application process starts with the commencement of a student’s undergraduate studies—cumulative GPA is, after-all, a determining factor in the admissions process. However, putting the undergraduate timeline aside (for obvious reasons), the law school application process generally takes several months. Taking the LSAT alone, on average, can take students anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete up to their expectations, i.e., getting their desired score. Following successful completion of the LSAT, personal statement and essay writing can take upwards of several weeks; many students underestimate the difficulty of personal statement writing and consequently don’t allot themselves enough time to complete the task in order to apply by their target submission dates. Students who give themselves adequate amounts of time to essay write tend to write better, and in a more reflective manner, which ultimately translates into better admissions offerings—don’t neglect this step of the application process, the personal statement is the single most important component for admissions committees to learn more about you as a person.

When to Apply to Law School

When should you apply to law school? As early as possible. The application cycle generally opens sometime around late-August to early-October depending on the law school. Submitting your law school application earlier in the cycle (before Thanksgiving) gives you a better shot at earning an admission—with fewer applicants comes less competition. Furthermore, applying earlier in the application cycle may increase your chances of earning scholarship money. Since law schools have a finite amount of scholarship money to distribute annually, it’s clearly not a bad idea to apply while a school’s pockets are still full.

On the other hand, it can be an advantageous to apply to law school later on in the application cycle. These advantages generally only are relevant to applicants retaking the LSAT, and to undergraduate students that have GPA improvements to make. It should be noted, however, that these aren’t necessarily reasons to apply later; law school applicants can notify law schools of LSAT retakes and GPA improvements even after they’ve submitted their applications!

Where Should I Apply to Law School

Undeniably, graduating from a highly ranked law school will likely enable an individual to obtain more selective employment opportunities immediately following graduation (not necessarily in the long-term though). For many applicants, the decision is pretty simple—it’s T-14 or nothing; however, for others, the decision is a lot more complex and can be tied to their financial, geographic, and emotional situations. The truth is, attending law school is a risk unless someone else is paying for you to attend—which is why it’s more than reasonable to attend a lower ranked school offering scholarship money. On the other hand, risks aren’t all bad, and taking an informed and calculated risk can lead to truly great outcomes—which is why it’s all the more important that applicants invest time and thought into their law school decisions. At the day’s end, the most important factor is that you’re totally happy with your law school choice. After all, rank changes, but alma mater is forever!