Follow This 2013 Law School Application Season Timeline

An admissions expert outlines a plan for applying to law school in the new year.

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With the fall of 2013 so far from our minds during this holiday season, it may feel like it's too soon to start thinking about your LSAT prep and law school applications now. However, if you want to be successful in the 2013-2014 law school application season, now is exactly when you need to begin preparing.

Take out your new 2013 planner and add in the milestone goals below so you can stay on track all year.

January: Start your LSAT preparation this month. A class is often the best way to gain a comprehensive overview of the exam and learn the different strategies needed for each section and question type.

However, I recommend only taking the course at a firm where all the instructors have scored at least a 172 and have at least a couple of years of teaching experience. Be sure to ask, as many firms don't like to discuss their teachers' qualifications.

If such a class is not available due to your location, consider personalized virtual tutoring instead, as the most important thing is partnering with a top instructor. Beginning an LSAT class now gives you at least five months (until the June LSAT) and up to eleven months (until the December LSAT) to reach your target score.

February: Continue with your LSAT preparation. If you started a class in the beginning of January, you will probably finish it around the end of this month.

[Get expert tips for LSAT preparation.]

March: Consider one-on-one LSAT tutoring to reinforce any LSAT concepts or question types that are confusing you. A qualified tutor can (and should) create customized lessons designed specifically to fit your learning style.

April: Continue your tutoring and start taking full-length practice LSAT exams regularly. If you are scoring close to your target range on practice tests, register for the June LSAT.

Also, decide if you are going to work with a law school admissions counselor on your applications.

May: Complete any remaining tutoring sessions, and continue taking practice tests. If you are interested in law school admissions counseling, select a firm. Again, I believe quality is of the utmost importance and personally recommend only working with a firm where you will be collaborating exclusively with graduates from the top five law schools.

[Explore the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings.]

June: Take the June LSAT if you are ready. After the LSAT, turn your focus to your applications.

Discuss with your counselor if there is anything in your profile that you can improve over the next few months, such as adding to your volunteer experience or taking on a leadership position, and work to accomplish this.

July: If you did not take the June LSAT or you canceled your score, continue your LSAT preparation. Also, continue working on your applications. You may want to expand or contract your school list depending on your June LSAT score.

Choose your recommenders and contact them to request recommendations. You have plenty of time, but this process may take a couple months if your recommenders are traveling during the summer.

[Avoid making these recommendation request mistakes.]

August: You should have the outlines of your personal statement and diversity statement mostly done by now, so you can write your first drafts this month. Initially concentrate more on the content than length or word choice.

Register for the October LSAT if necessary.

September: Most of September should be spent editing your essays and working on other parts of the application like the résumé and short answer questions.

If you are taking the October LSAT, continue taking practice tests. If you are not scoring within your target range consistently, consider postponing to the December exam.

October: Take or retake the LSAT, if need be. Spend the rest of the month finalizing your applications so they are ready to submit when you receive your LSAT score.

November: If you took the June or October LSAT and were satisfied with your score, you should submit your applications by Thanksgiving, if possible.

If you will be taking the December LSAT, try to analyze what you had trouble with during previous exams and practice tests, and adjust accordingly.

December: Already submitted your applications? Time to relax!

If you are not finished yet, take the December LSAT and then make any final edits to your essays. Submit your applications as soon as you receive your LSAT score.

How are you planning for the upcoming application cycle? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.