I've been receiving various flavors of the following email from law school applicants since October (punctuation and all-caps faithfully rendered):
"OMG!!!! I submitted X WEEKS AGO AND I HAVEN'T HEARD ANYTHING!!!! Did they lose my application/decide to reject me/decide to ignore me????"
My reply: It's only January, and believe it or not, this is still early in the admissions cycle to be receiving decisions from schools.
And here's the more important message: Keep your wits about you. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while you sweat out the waiting process:
1. Do not pester schools about the status of your application. You can find out through your online LSAC account whether your application has been submitted to a school. Different schools have different processes for notifying you if some piece of the application is missing or has not been submitted properly. Two common traps: Stanford will not accept its Form C from recommenders directly (it must be submitted through LSAC if you choose to use the form), and Yale requires dean's certifications from every institution of higher education you have attended, not just the one from which you graduated. Schools are pretty good about putting these kinds of rules on their online FAQ pages, as well as their processes for letting you know about the status of your application. You are expected to know those rules and processes and follow them.
2. Make sure to check your spam folder regularly, since schools now routinely communicate with applicants via email.
3. Give schools your real (not alumni) email address. If you listed an email address on your application that is an alumni forwarding address (for example, as a Columbia alum, I have a Columbia email address that forwards to my real email address), email the schools to which you have applied to give them your real email address instead. I've heard of too many important emails going astray with alumni forwarding addresses.
4. Do not let the discussion boards turn you into a crazy person. I know that many applicants enjoy the camaraderie of law school discussion boards and use them responsibly; that's a good thing. But I've also seen other people start doing irrational things as a result of spending too much time on them. Just because so-and-so (who doesn't even identify himself) got a JB1 Harvard interview or has already heard back from Penn, don't let that freak you out. Do not shoot off any emails to schools (or make any decisions, really) at 4 o'clock on the morning. Do not withdraw your application from School X because you are certain that their silence must mean you've been rejected. If you find yourself tempted to act rashly, back away slowly from your computer, and vow to stay away from the boards for some period of time. Remember that most people have not yet heard from most schools this time of year.
Tom Petty was right... the waiting really is the hardest part. Hang tight!
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. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).