law school application deadlines

Are law school application deadlines “soft deadlines”?

I often respond to questions from readers on the law school admissions process. Here is a question I recently responded to: 


Q: Are law school application deadlines “soft deadlines”? I am applying to law schools (or, rather, did apply to law schools a month and more ago) and over the past week have received several emails from schools asking me to apply even though their deadlines have passed. This is based, presumably, upon my LSAT score, which the Law School Admission Council sends out to law schools. Does this indicate a particularly bad year for law school recruitment, or is it always like this?

A: It isn’t necessarily always like this. In my experience — as a Harvard Law School graduate who had the exact same situation happen to me (along with seeing many application cycles as a law school admissions counselor for both Kaplan and Harvard College) — there are a few reasons why this may happen.

1. The law school is indeed, as you suggested, having a bad application year and is looking for more applications to fill the class.

2. You have a very good LSAT score (compared to the school’s median) and other solid credentials and the school wants to attract you even if it could otherwise fill the 1L class from the regular applicant pool — in other words, they may think you and people like you will help pull up the averages and medians of the 1L class, which can help with rankings like US News.

3. The school is trying to manage its yield — for example, Yale Law School has, in the past, sent out application invitations and fee waivers, only to subsequently reject those applicants. Now, if a law school does this to a lot of people, then their published admissions data (e.g., on their website, on US News) reinforces the perception that there is a large number of applicants only a small fraction of whom get accepted.

Or it could be a combination of some of these. Either way, since the applications are more or less standardized through LSDAS, and especially if you are invited to apply with a fee waiver, it can’t hurt you to send in an application. Who knows — you might not only be accepted, but even get some scholarship money to boot!

Be sure to check out our law school admissions guide “How to get into Harvard Law School (whether you have the highest scores or not)” for in-depth tips and strategies on admission to elite law schools!

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Andrew C.

Andrew Chen is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He was admitted to Harvard on his first attempt at applying – in the very first round of applicants. He was also admitted to the law schools at Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Chicago among others – also all in their first rounds. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.