Surprise! It’s November, and that means that the early decision and early action deadlines for most law schools are fast approaching.
The difference between early decision and early action is simple: Early decision is binding, meaning that if you apply early decision to a school and you get accepted, you have to go. Early action just means that the school will let you know whether you’re accepted earlier in the cycle. You can apply early action to as many schools as you want, whereas you can only apply early decision to one school.
Applying early decision probably makes sense if there’s a certain school that you’d definitely attend if you got in – especially if that school is a bit of a reach for you, since applying early decision can give your application a bit of a boost. However, there’s one big con to applying early decision, which is that you’re stuck with whatever financial aid package the school offers you. (If you apply regular decision, you can consider financial aid packages when choosing what school to attend, and you can try to use other schools’ financial aid offers to negotiate higher scholarships at your top-choice schools.)
Most schools’ early deadlines are around mid-November, so if you haven’t already been planning on applying early decision, it’s probably too late to start that process now (unless your application materials are already complete). If you are planning on applying early decision or early action, make sure to submit your application materials in advance of the deadline – LSAC is slow when it comes to processing paperwork (which shouldn’t be a surprise, given that it takes them a month to grade a Scantron and release LSAT scores).
Even if you’re not applying early decision or early action, you’ll still want to get your applications wrapped up as soon as possible. Since most law schools have rolling admissions, it’s beneficial to apply as early in the application cycle as possible. Since most people submit their applications between Thanksgiving and the New Year, you’ll want to get your applications wrapped up soon in order to be ahead of the curve.
That said, there are certain situations in which it makes more sense to submit your applications later in the cycle. For instance, it’s always better to apply later in the cycle with a higher LSAT score – so if you’re retaking the LSAT (or are taking it for the first time), don’t stress about getting your applications in early. You should aim to have everything submitted by the time scores are released so that your application is good to go, but other than that, just focus on getting an awesome LSAT score.