How to set yourself up for success in the upcoming law school admissions cycle

By Hillary Mantis

It was really tough to get into law school this year. Law school applications were up 30.6% over last year, according to the Law School Admissions Council.

The pandemic, the election and growing interest in politics and social justice, combined with a shaky pandemic job market, may have been contributing factors.

In fact, so many applied and deposited that some top law schools are now rumored to be asking members of their incoming 1L class to defer starting law school for a year. The incoming classes are overenrolled at many law schools.

That means that we may be entering another competitive admission cycle this fall. If many are deferring, then next year’s incoming class will already have some students in it.

How can you be successful if you are applying to law school this year?

- Apply Early: I recommend submitting all applications by Thanksgiving or early December if possible. What I saw in this past admissions cycle was that applicants were waitlisted at schools they probably would have been accepted to if they had applied earlier, when more spots were available. More scholarship funds are also usually available earlier in the admissions cycle.

- Ask for Letters of Recommendation Now: Last year I saw applicants waiting patiently for professors or internship supervisors to have time to write their recommendations. Sometimes the student was waiting for weeks, and their applications were not complete until the recommendations were in. If you wait until mid-fall to ask for recommendations, you are approaching them at a time when they may be swamped with work, and fielding requests for recommendations from many others. So ask them now  — the letters will stay in your LSAC file until you apply.

- Attend Law School Admissions Events and the Law School Forum: It is important to show interest in the schools you apply to. It’s equally important to learn if the schools you think you are interested in are really a good fit for you. So, whether they are back in person or remote, attend admissions sessions, go on tours, and attend the Law School Forum sponsored by the Law School Admissions Council to meet with admissions officers and attend panels(check out for more information).

- Complete Standardized Testing in the Fall: Although the LSAT and GRE are offered throughout the year, to be able to take advantage of rolling admissions, try to complete your standardized testing by this fall, so that you can submit applications early in the rolling admissions process. Take advantage of LSAT resources offered through LSAC such as score preview, LawHub, and free LSAT prep through the Khan Academy. If you are considering the GRE, check out for more information about which law schools accept it.

- Apply to a Broad Range of Schools: Make sure to have a good mix of likely, midrange and reach schools. Apply to all of your dream schools, but also be realistic and apply to schools that are probably safeties. Some schools have free applications. You can also apply for an application fee waiver due to financial hardship. If you are hoping for merit scholarships, make sure to include a lot of likely schools. Merit scholarship funds are often based on GPA and test scores that are higher than those typically required by the school. If you sign up for the Candidate Referral Service through LSAC, you could also receive some free applications. This is not the time to limit yourself—in a competitive cycle, it’s good to have options!

 Hillary Mantis is assistant dean for the pre-law program at Fordham University and author of career books. She consults with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. Questions about applying? She can be reached at