Ready to Transmit?
If you haven't done it already, return to the application page and check that your recommendations are attached, transcripts and LSAT score in order, etc. There's no sense in submitting an app that cannot be reviewed.
Okay, you've reviewed the pdf version of the application. You've looked at all those tiny boxes you might have missed. You've attached your resume, essays, and addenda. Now you get to click that "Continue" button. Chill; there are still several steps in getting the app from your computer to LSAC to the law school.
What happens when you hit that "Continue button?
First, you find that you must "certify" your app electronically, or else print and sign a signature form.
Fordham prefers to do everything electronically. All you do is check the certification button and continue.
Wisconsin allows you to choose whether you want to pay electronically or by paper.
If you proceed by paper, you must PRINT the form using the button on the top left, then CERTIFY by pressing the button on the lower right.
Most law schools prefer electronic submission; it saves them from entering data into the computer manually. However, some schools have not updated their fee waiver system to allow for electronic submissions; in those cases, you'll have to mail a paper application in order to use the fee waiver. In addition, electronic submission of essays and resumes can change the format, or cause them to exceed the space provided. Make sure you open the pdf version of your essays and addenda to verify that they still fit in the space allowed.
If you're getting close to the deadlines, check to see whether the date is for your submitting the app or completing it. Some schools will process apps received a few days after the deadline if they didn't receive as many apps as they'd like or if the applicant is someone they'd like to have as a student. Other schools will simply return the unopened app to you.
When to Submit the Application
The traditional wisdom of apps is “the earlier, the better.” My personal philosophy, though, is “a strong file late is better than a weak file early.” But, as with everything else in the law school admission process, it all depends. Here are some of the considerations that should govern your decision.
Do I have an LSAT score?
If you have a score, you know at least some of the schools to which you will apply. Even if you are retaking the LSAT, you can send in some files now. But if you know your LSAT score was waaaay lower than your practice test scores (8-10 points), you should wait to apply to some schools that want a higher score. The papers that the law school receives from LSAC will NOT show that you are registered to retake, so you could be rejected before getting that better score.
If you have no LSAT score yet, or one that leaves you totally out of the ballpark at the schools you want to attend, you should wait to apply until you have a score you want, unless money is absolutely irrelevant to your decision. Even then, be sure to apply to schools up and down the LSAT scale. Optimism often results in waiting a year to attend a lesser school.
Do I have my recommendations in hand?
If your recommenders have not completed your recs, you cannot apply to these schools. You might list recommenders who never come through, and your file will never complete. Also, there is the chance something will get lost.
How good is my personal statement?
A really good personal statement can turn a rejection into a waitlist, a waitlist into an acceptance, even for the perfectly mainstream applicant. If you deviate from the norm in any way and your personal statement explains or adds insight to your life’s circumstance, it can turn a rejection into an acceptance. For any applicant, it’s worth holding the apps for another week or two for a good personal statement. For a person with some diversity to highlight or obstacles to explain, a good file is worth more than a month of “earliness.”
Are there any problems in the process of being fixed?
If you are in the process of correcting a transcript problem or are awaiting an adjudication on a criminal charge, there is no advantage to applying early, and good reason to apply later. If the outcome of the disposition is negative, you won’t get into certain schools anyway. If the outcome is in your favor, your file will be a lot stronger with no evidence of the problem. A file that is strong at the outset presents a much better image than a bad file that has been “amended” to be good.
SO, if you've proofread your application, attached your attachments, assigned recommendations, and certified the truth of your application, you can now TRANSMIT! That includes adding the app to a shopping cart, then checking out and paying for it, as if you were on Amazon.
Normally, your application will be received by the law school within minutes of your checking out. If it's 11:55 p.m. on February 1, it may take an hour or three, I have seen apps rejected because they weren't processed in time, so try hard not to let it wait until the last minute.