Staying Sane During Law School Application Season

This is a great time of year to be an applicant, because right now it's easy to hang onto your sanity. At this point, you're probably feeling good about what you'll make happen for your application between now and October, as you should.

Let me give you the heads up about what happens to a lot of applicants between now and then: you might start to feel as if you're losing your mind.

You might start thinking about quitting your job to study for the LSAT full-time.

You might start treating law school as the only alternative to the sky falling.

You might lose confidence in yourself -- your ability to succeed in life without a particular piece of paper hanging on your wall four years from now -- and that declining confidence can start manifesting itself in weird ways.

You might start wigging yourself out to the point where you can't even think straight on the day of your LSAT, and that downward mental health/happiness/confidence spiral starts affecting the rest of the application process as well. (Neither your fate at School X, nor the rest of your life, will hinge on futzing with that one sentence in your essay six hundred more times.)

There's a sweet spot you want to be shooting for. You want to work smart, and you'll probably need to work hard as well. You'll want to give it your best effort, because in a competition this tight you shouldn't assume you have multiple chances to shine. Do not walk into the LSAT unprepared just to see how you do, and do not submit a mediocre application just to see how you do. At the same time, you'll need to retain your confidence, and that involves a certain arc: knowing what it takes for you to do your best, knowing when you have done your best, and knowing when to stop (either because you can't realistically make any more improvements, or because there's not enough additional upside to justify the continued effort).

Most immediate on your minds right now is probably the LSAT. Our friends at Blueprint LSAT remind us that you should budget about 300 hours to be at peak performance on the test. You can allocate those hours however works best with your schedule between now and the test, but they also encourage you to train for marathon-like testing conditions (meaning: a quick sprint here and there isn't the optimal way to practice; you need to train in long stretches).

Yes, there are people who can pull it out of a hat the week before something is due -- we've all seen it happen -- but don't kid yourself. That approach doesn't work for those people over and over again, and it's not an approach you should rely on when the stakes are high for you. If you have decided that law school is the right next step for you, don't undermine yourself by pushing things off, or -- the opposite problem -- by throwing yourself into your task in such an all-consuming way that you lose perspective, end up making a mess of things, and drive yourself and the people around you crazy. Shoot for that sweet spot in between.

Do you have your own advice for the optimal action plan, and for keeping your sanity? Please share.

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Find Anna on Twitter and Facebook.