The pros and cons of applying to law school early


    One of my daily tasks here at PowerScore is answering questions on our LSAT and Law School Admissions Forum. I got a very good set of questions recently that I thought all our LSAT student and prospective law school applicants could benefit from:

    What are the pros and cons of applying early action or early decision? Why someone would decide to apply early action as opposed to the traditional way? 

    First things first: Let's have a solid understanding of what applying via Early Action (also known as EA) and Early Decision (also known as ED) mean. Start by reading this blog post, which breaks down how each program works, the possible admission results you can obtain, and who offers the programs.

    Now that you're familiar with EA and ED, let's get down to the nitty-gritty: What are the pros and cons of applying via one of these programs? 

    EARLY ACTION (EA)

    Pros:You get your admissions decision sooner, but it's non-binding. Therefore, you aren't committing to a school if accepted. You also get an admissions decision (and, likely, financial aid package) sooner, which lets you have more information with which to make decisions. You can also, typically, apply to more than one school via EA.

    Cons: You'll have to respond to offers of admission received via EA much sooner than those you receive via regular decision, so you may be making that decision before you know if you were admitted to any of your regular decision schools. If rejected via EA, you will typically not be able to apply to the school again that same year via regular decision.

    EARLY DECISION (ED)

    Pros:It sends a clear message to the school that it is your #1 choice, which works in your favor during the admissions process. You get your admissions decision sooner and, if admitted, you know exactly where you're going right away. This means you can start making moving plans and arrangements with plenty of time.

    Cons: It's binding, which means that if you're admitted, you have to go. You can only apply to one school via ED, which limits your options. Although you will likely be able to negotiate your financial aid package if it doesn't cover you, you don't have much bargaining power, since you've legally agreed to go to the school if accepted, regardless of financial assistance given (although schools will always do their utmost to help you cover the cost of attendance). If you're rejected via ED, you cannot apply to the school again that same year via regular decision.

    Whether you decide to apply via EA or ED is a very personal choice based on your wants, needs, and qualifications, but it does help to know why some students choose to use these programs. It's usually for one of two reasons:

    1. They want to take advantage of the edge applying early gives them (early programs typically have a higher rate of acceptance than regular admissions).
    2. They know without a doubt that they want to attend a particular school, and are willing to forgo any other school to do so. 

    The big thing to keep in mind is this: If you're not sure if you want to attend a particular school above all others, it may be a better choice to submit your applications early in the cycle, but not through a formal program. Applying early in the cycle still gives you a slight edge (due to rolling admissions), but it doesn't bind you to anything (or make you decide if you want to go much sooner than applicants admitted via regular admission). EA and ED programs are there for students who know without a doubt that a particular school is their top choice. If that's not you, applying EA or ED might not be the best choice.

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