Applying to Law School

Application tips and general timeline

Timetable for Law School

Of all Grinnellians who matriculate at law school, nearly two-third are alumni – meaning only one-third of all law school applicants go straight from Grinnell to law school. The timetable below presumes you’ll be in that minority. The schedule is also based on a typical program with a December/January application deadline – although most schools offer rolling admissions that begin as early as October. Applying to law school as early as you can is always a wise move.

During your third year

  • Establish ties with faculty members who may later write your letters of recommendation
  • Attend information sessions by law schools visiting Grinnell
  • Register to take the June LSAT and begin preparing for the test

During the summer between your third and fourth year

  • Take the LSAT
  • Begin drafting your personal statement
  • Construct a résumé to be used with your applications
  • Research law schools; prepare a list of places to which you will apply
  • Receive LSAT score and meet with the pre-law adviser at the CLS to discuss school options

During your fourth year

September – October: 

  • Register with the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
  • Have official transcript(s) sent to CAS
  • Check LSAC report for accuracy
  • Register for and take the October LSAT if you did not take it in June (or if you need to retake)
  • Request letters of recommendation to be sent to CAS
  • Finalize your personal statement and any supplemental statements; have them reviewed at the Writing Lab, at the CLS, and by several other trusted readers


  • Complete and send applications
  • Begin investigating sources of financial aid; obtain applications; submit as early as possible

December – January:

  • Check with law schools to ensure your files are complete
  • File your financial aid applications
  • Have an updated transcript with your fall term grades sent directly to law schools
  • Evaluate offers of acceptance and financial aid soon as they come in, noting that (with the exception of early decision offers for academic terms beginning in the spring or summer) you will not be required to place a deposit at any particular school prior to April 1
  • Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendations or assisted you
There are many components to your law school application but one of the most important is the personal statement.

The personal statement

Remember that you can always have your personal-statement drafts critiqued by advisers at the CLS and the Writing, Reading & Speaking Center. You can also get feedback from faculty, family, and friends. Here are some law school-specific tips (adapted from the National Association of Pre-Law Advisers):


  • Be specific, accurate, and truthful.
  • Tell the reviewers why you have chosen to pursue a career in law.
  • Show the reviewers who you are: this document usually stands in for your interview.
  • Ensure your statement supports and is supported by the rest of your application.
  • Look beyond “commonplace” extracurricular activities or athletic experience.
  • Acknowledge negatives in your file.
  • Mention sensitive subjects in an appropriate way (not overly dramatically).


  • Use the third person.
  • Give your statement a title.
  • Gush about law school or the role of law in society.
  • Be too cynical or come across as a “victim.”
  • Be too specific about what you want to do with your law degree, unless your experience demonstrates that your intended path is a logical extension of previous experiences.
  • Focus too much on another person, even if this person has been influential in your life.
  • Simply list the activities and experiences that are already elsewhere in your application.

Additional Law School Application Resources

LSAT Resources