Timeline for Applying to Law School

The law school application process is rigorous. Give yourself an advantage by starting as early as possible. It is very important to be fully prepared.

Freshman Year

  • Take courses that interest you. There is no single course of study or major makes a significant difference in your attractiveness to law schools.
  • Do as well as you can in your courses. If you apply to law school during senior year, generally schools only have access to your first three years of grades.
  • Get to know your instructors. Be active in class. Attend office hours. Letters of recommendation from faculty members can be an important admission factor. The more detailed knowledge instructors have about your academic work, the more detailed (and helpful) your recommendations can be.
  • Start to learn about law as a career. Attend Career Services' law-related career panels or programs. Speak with alumni listed on the Alumni Careers Network. Consider a law-related summer job. Many organizations, both corporate and nonprofit, have opportunities that are legal in nature.

Sophomore Year

  • Aim to improve. If you had less than stellar grades freshman year, don’t panic. Freshman-year grades are often viewed as the least predictive of your academic performance. However, showing an upwards trend in your subsequent GPA will be important.
  • Take courses that will sharpen your writing and analytical skills. Both are very important for law school and the legal profession. There are also law-related courses offered at Princeton that may be of interest to you. Take a variety of classes.
  • Choose a major that suits you. The choice of a major should be based on your interest in the subject matter. Don’t choose a major you think might “look” better to law schools. Law schools are more likely to appreciate your mastery of a subject than the subject itself.
  • Attend the Graduate and Professional School Fair in the fall. Familiarize yourself with the participating schools.
  • It’s never too early to begin preparing for the LSAT. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a free LSAT test available on their website. While the LSAT is a paper-and-pencil test, LSAC has an online tool called LSAT ItemWise that will let you practice answering questions in all three categories: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning and reading comprehension. The tool keeps track of your answers, and explains why they are correct or incorrect.

Junior Year

  • Continue to explore and learn about the legal profession. Read literature (articles, books, online articles) and talk with lawyers, including alumni and others in the legal profession.
  • Take part in law-related programs on campus. These include Career Services' panels and workshops. Be sure to attend presentations hosted by visiting deans of admissions.
  • Begin to assess your financial needs and the availability of financial aid. Consider whether your family can help with the cost of law school or whether you will be paying on your own.
  • Begin seeking recommendation letters from faculty. The earlier, the better.
  • Give serious consideration to LSAT timing. The LSAT is offered four times a year: February, June, September/October and December. If you first take the LSAT in fall of your senior year, you will only have diagnostic (practice) scores in hand as you form your application strategy. Your actual LSAT score may well be higher or lower.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). Understand all that you must do through this service when applying to law school. If you will be applying in the fall of your senior year, register with CAS when you register for the LSAT or, by mid-June after junior year at the latest.
  • After your spring semester grades have been submitted to the registrar, have your transcript sent to LSAC. You must submit to the registrar's office your CAS bar-coded transcript request form.
  • Target schools. Based on your GPA and LSAT score (actual or diagnostic), begin to research law schools that fall into the safety, slight stretch and reach categories.
  • Pre-write. Begin thinking about themes for your personal statement.

Senior Year

  • Take advantage of the rolling admissions policies of many law schools. Complete your applications as early as possible — ideally in September, but by October or mid-November at the latest.
  • Be sure to follow the instructions for each law school’s application. While all law schools will ask for the same basic information, they may ask for it in different ways. Attention to detail is essential in the application process.
  • Visit Career Services. Schedule an appointment with the Career Services PreLaw Advisor to have your personal statement reviewed.
  • Double-check CAS. Be certain that your letters of recommendation are in your Credentials Assembly Service file.
  • Stay involved. Attend on-campus presentations by law school admissions deans during fall semester. These presentations provide the opportunity to meet the deans of admissions and continue your personal evaluation of these schools. This will give you greater insight into the law school experience and what each school looks for in its applicants.
  • Obtain financial aid materials early in the year and process them in a timely fashion. Many have early deadlines. Become very familiar with the financial aid website of each law school to which you are applying — they are not all the same.
  • Connect with opportunity. Keep current on prelaw activities through the Career Services events calendar and the weekly CareerNews email.
  • Don't forget final transcripts. After all of your applications have been submitted, it may be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief, relax and not worry about grades. However, even if you receive admission to your top-choice law school in the fall, the school will require a transcript of your fall and spring grades.