Early Decision — Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Early decision application deadlines are fast approaching.  Some are as soon as November 15, less than 3 weeks away!  Many of you ask us whether you should opt for early decision.  The answer is (of course) — it is entirely up to you!

What does choosing to apply early decision actually mean?  It means that you have decided that X law school is your top choice and that you would choose to attend that law school regardless of whether you were admitted elsewhere and regardless the amount of financial aid offered by your early decision school. More importantly, when selecting to apply via the binding early decision track you are agreeing that, if admitted to X law school, you will attend that law school and, therefore, will immediately withdraw all of your other applications at all other law schools. Some nearby schools with binding “Early Decision/Early Commitment” programs include: University of Michigan Law School Northwestern University School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, and Indiana University Mauer School of Law.   Binding “Early Decision” or “Early Commitment” programs should not be confused with non-binding “Early Action” or “Early Notification” programs like those offered by Chicago-Kent Law School and Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.

Are there advantages to applying Early Decision? In most cases, the one key advantage to applying early decision is that you demonstrate to the law school a very strong interest in their program.  Further, since you are applying early, you will hear from the admissions office much earlier in the admissions cycle.  Finally, with regard to scholarships and financial aid, the impact of early decision varies from school to school.  Many schools treat early decision candidates/admitted applicants the same as they treat those applicants applying during and admitted through the regular admissions cycle.  However, other law schools offer financial incentives for qualified applicants to apply early decision. For example, in the case of Northwestern, if admitted through its Early Decision program, you are guaranteed a total scholarship of $150,000 ($50,000 per year). Note: if you are applying early decision to Northwestern you must complete an admissions interview ASAP. Click here to access information about scheduling an interview at Northwestern.

So…should you or shouldn’t you? The decision to commit to a binding early decision program is a very individual one.  Consider all of the pros and cons very carefully.  If you decide it is the right approach for you, make sure you finish all required elements of the application by the stated deadlines.  Good luck!