Time to Approach Your Recommenders for Law School

Congratulations to those of you who recently graduated. What are you going to do with all this time on your hands?? And for those of you who are rising seniors, congratulations on entering the home stretch.

I have some suggestions for both kinds of applicants, as well as for people whose college graduation days are long behind them.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of sending in your transcripts sooner rather than later. The same is true for recommendations.

If you're planning to submit your recommendations earily in the application season -- ideally sometime in November -- there's no reason to put off approaching your recommenders for several reasons:

First, because law schools that ask for recommendations typically prefer academic ones, and whatever coursework you might still have coming up is likely not going to allow a recommender to get to know you well enough by November, before the fall semester has wrapped up. And if you're already out of school, all the more reason not to wait. If there are academic recommenders who might still remember you and your work after some passage of time, there's no reason to let more time pass and memories fade.

Second, because your preferred timeline might not be your recommenders' preferred timeline. Professors like to go on vacation in the summer, or maybe your first choice recommender is planning on a sabbatical next fall and will categorically refuse to write any recommendations while on sabbatical. Or maybe your favorite professor is due to give birth in August, and she'd prefer to get recommendations out of the way in July. Who knows. The point is, they have their own plans and schedules and emergencies, and since you're asking them to spend their time and reputational capital on you in the form of a recommendation, it's best to work around their schedules. And that means you need to find out what their schedules are, and what their availability is.

Third, recommenders sometimes take their sweet time to write the letters, or they write them and put them in envelopes and even stamp them but then forget them in the backseat of the car. Other recommenders seem to fall off the face of the earth as your check-in emails go unheeded. LSAC also needs time to process the letters once it receives them from your professors. The more lead-time you bake into your timeline for recommendations, the better.

And a specific exception:

If you're in a summer program and those classes will be especially meaningful for your applications (you're taking classes to show that your undergraduate transcript from seven years ago is ancient history and you're a better student now), then do wait until your summer courses are complete before asking those instructors for recommendations. Otherwise they won't be able to evaluate you properly.

More recommendation tips:

Do you have questions about recommendations? Please post in the comments. I'm happy to answer them.

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, and connect with Anna on Twitter and Facebook. Have a question for us to tackle in the blog? Please email us.