Nationally the percentage of students taking at least one year off before applying to law school is steadily increasing.
When should you apply to law school? There is no one right answer. The pre-law advisor is happy to talk through this with you.
In 2018, more than two-thirds of incoming students at U.S. law schools had taken at least a year after college to work or earn graduate degrees. Consistent with national trends, most Oberlin students choose to apply to law school a year or more after graduating.
Refer to Oberlin Statistics and Outcomes for details.
Applying to law school directly from Oberlin may be the right choice if you:
- know that law is right for you based on research and experience;
- have a strong GPA;
- feel confident about your LSAT score;
- have strong relationships with faculty; and
- are comfortable basing your application on your first three years at Oberlin.
If the above gives you pause, consider delaying your application to:
- devote more time and energy during your senior year to your academics;
- have your entire academic record included as part of your application;
- gain work experience to help focus your interests and make an informed decision about law school; and
- become a stronger applicant by using skills that are necessary in law school, such as critical thinking, research, and analysis, in the workforce for a few years.
Timeline for applying to law school
The following timeline is intended to help you plan and meet deadlines as you apply for law school. Keep in mind that law school application dates vary depending on programs and schools.
Note: This timeline is geared toward students who plan to matriculate into law school immediately following graduation from Oberlin. If you plan to take time off, you will need to adjust accordingly.
First and second year of college
- Enroll in courses that will enhance your communication skills, writing ability, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical skills. Choose a challenging, balanced, and diversified course of study, but also one in which you will excel.
- Meet with the pre-law advisor and discuss your interest in law school with your academic advisor.
- Work diligently on class materials. If you need help, get it. Your transcript should reflect a performance of which you are proud.
- Develop relationships with members of the faculty. Begin to think about whom you should ask to write letters of recommendation. In most cases, you will need letters from two professors who can specifically address your academic performance and intellectual promise.
- Participate in selected extracurricular activities. Your contributions and involvement should be substantive and meaningful to you. If possible, obtain leadership status and identify some way to provide service to the college and or local community.
- Maintain a strong academic standing. Your GPA is a very important part of the admission process.
- Begin to compile a portfolio (your best papers/projects in a file) that you can share with your potential recommenders.
- Talk to people in the legal profession. Come to Drop-in Hours at the Career Development Center for help connecting with alumni.
- Complete your Career Interests on Handshake.
- Join OberLink to connect with alumni in the legal profession.
- Join the Law and Public Policy Career Community.
- Manage your undergraduate finances wisely to be prepared for the expenses associated with applying to and attending law school.
- Attend pre-law programs, panels, and events.
Third year of college
- Schedule an appointment with the pre-law advisor to discuss your current academic status, LSAT preparation, individual time frame, researching law schools, and LSAC.org
- Focus on academic courses that demonstrate depth, persistence, and perseverance. Maintain a good GPA.
- Attend pre-law programs, panels, and events.
- Attend an LSAC Law School Fair or Forum near you.
- Prepare for the LSAT. If applying to Law School your senior year, it is recommended you take the LSAT Junior year winter, summer, or again fall senior year.
- Identify faculty members for recommendation letters; discuss your plans with them and request permission to use them as references.
- Prepare a resume of your academic work, work experiences, and extracurricular activities.
- Prepare a list of law schools that are of interest to you. Include reach, safety, and stretch schools.
Summer before applying
- Take the June LSAT or prepare for the October LSAT.
- Register for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service via LSAC.org’s website.
- Request official transcript(s) to be sent to the LSAC Credential Assembly Service.
- Review law school websites; research, visit, and hone law school target list.
- Prepare application materials, focusing on resume and personal statement.
- Check-in with your letter of recommendation writers.
- Request a Dean’s Certification from the Office of the Dean of Students.
- Attend an LSAC Law School Fair or Forum if you haven't already done so.
Fall of application year
- Schedule an appointment with the pre-law advisor to discuss your list of schools; your personal statement(s); other important concerns
- Take the October LSAT and/or December LSAT, if necessary.
- Finalize a well-balanced list of law schools. Read application instructions for each school closely (with a particular focus on submission methods and application requirements), and prepare your materials for submission.
- Request a Dean’s Certification from the Office of the Dean of Students if you have not already done so.
- Complete and submit your applications as early as possible—there is a benefit to applying early. The application opens in September.
Winter after application submitted
- Check to be sure your application file is complete, including letters of recommendation and Dean’s Certification. If you do not receive confirmation of application submission from the law schools, it is your responsibility to follow-up to confirm that your application is complete.
- File your financial aid applications. Research and apply for grants, scholarship and financial aid, both school-related and outside award programs.
- Send an updated transcript with fall semester grades to LSAC or directly to law schools.
- If you re-tested in December and want the law schools to defer reaching a decision about you until they receive your December score, you must inform the schools yourself.
Spring after application submitted
- As soon as you begin to get decisions from schools, decide whether you need to apply to additional schools or investigate optional programs.
- Update law schools you have not yet heard from regarding new evidence to support your application such as honors or awards.
- Schedule an appointment with the pre-law advisor to review multiple offers/scholarships or how to approach being waitlisted.
- When you have chosen your law school, mail in the appropriate deposit and confirmation forms by law school deadline. Then notify all other schools that you are withdrawing your application from their application review process or declining their offer of acceptance.
- Communicate your plans with the pre-law advisor and send thank you correspondence to your recommenders.