As you contemplate a timeline for sending in your law school applications, the first (and most important) piece of the puzzle is your LSAT score. The October 2015 LSAT scoes will most likely be released on Monday, October 26th, so - assuming you did well - you'll be ready to click that ominous "Submit" button soon after that. Hopefully, you followed our advice and polished your personal statement to the point of perfection, had your transcripts sent in, double-checked if your UGPA is consistent with the GPA on your transcript, and made sure your letters of recommendation didn't mysteriously get lost in cyberspace (or your professor's mailbox).
For those of you still in college, here's a common dilemma: do you send in your applications as early as possible, or should you wait until your Fall semester grades come out to apply?
In the vast majority of cases, word on the street is that you should NOT wait: send in your applications as soon as you have a satisfactory LSAT score. Law schools practice rolling admissions, so, generally speaking, the sooner you submit your application, the better your chances of admission. Granted, the downside to submitting your applications late does not become significant enough until January, so you'll be fine if you're waiting for a December score. However, most colleges do not release their Fall semester grades until mid-to-late January, so even if you're absolutely certain that you got straight A's, that's not worth waiting for. Apply early, and update the schools with your Fall semester grades when you know them.
But, you might say, what if they already made a decision by the time I get my grades back? That's an unlikely scenario. Unless you get auto-admitted (or auto-denied), a decision on your application won't be rendered in such a short period of time. Plus, if any school rejects your application immediately, you were probably audo-denied: one more semester of grades wouldn't have made much of a difference.
So, do your Fall semester grades matter? Absolutely! They matter even more if you're a borderline candidate whose GPA as of yet is far from stellar. Maybe you had a bad semester in college, or took pre-med classes before you realized that you don't need Orgo to become a lawyer. In that case, your senior year grades will be critical - they can shift your UGPA a full decimal point higher (or lower), and are your best - and last - chance to modify that number. Once you get your college degree, your UGPA is set in stone: it does not matter if you get straight A's in grad school, take Extension School classes, etc. Per LSAC's policy, graduate or professional school work does not get summarized or factored into your UGPA.
Here's one last thing to keep in mind: if you get waitlisted, a stellar academic record in your senior year can easily tip the scales in your favor. Waitlist decisions are increasingly common as law schools wait to assess the strength of an ever-shrinking applicant pool. In fact, you will probably get waitlisted at one or more of your "reaches," rather than being flat-out rejected. If that happens, and you're still in school, they will absolutely want to see your Fall (and even Spring) semester grades before making a decision.
So, bottom line is this: Don't wait for your Fall semester grades to come out, but make sure they are as high as possible. You may well need them later on.
Image courtesy of IQRemix.