I took the December LSAT feeling under-prepared and expecting to retake in March and apply for Fall 2012. Then, I got my score: 176. Now I have a window to apply at the tail end of the Fall 2011 cycle. I will have LORs/evals in, but I haven't started a PS and I'm not sure what programs to apply to. I'm also in my second year out of undergrad with spotty employment, and my only major 'soft' is that I was pretty successful in policy debate. My GPA isn't stellar, but it's from a pretty solid program: Political Science @ Rochester. My current plan is to work on a PS for around 3-4 weeks, then submit to schools with March 1 or later deadlines in mid-February. If I don't get any good offers, I can always apply again next year, but it would be a big plus to start a year early.
Two main things I'd like advice on:
1. The Personal Statement. I know it takes time and many revisions to end up with a really strong PS, but I also know that every day I delay going complete makes it that much less likely I'll get an offer I'll be happy with due to rolling admissions. How long should I take to write it, assuming the first big round of app deadlines for my list is March 1? Is early February a reasonable split between PS writing time and rolling admission time? Obviously I'll adjust my plan if I'm happy with my PS sooner than expected, or take the planned amount of time and am still not satisfied with its quality, but I'd like to have a target in mind. Any advice on writing a strong PS quickly would be much appreciated.
2. Schools to apply to. I'm thinking 3/1 or later for deadline dates is the plan; I can't imagine being ready to go complete before early February. I might toss in a last-minute reach app to one of the T1 programs with a 2/15 deadline (Northwestern, Penn, Michigan, Columbia). I'm not set on any one state or region, although I'd prefer to be in New England or on the West Coast. Strong public interest and/or international law programs are big pluses. Cost will be a big factor - safeties with reputations for throwing money at candidates with high numbers would be awesome. Any schools that *don't* do rolling admissions, or at least are known to hold a lot of slots till the last minute, would be very good to know about, as that would drastically reduce the handicap of applying so late. Schools that go largely by the numbers and schools that value LSAT scores especially highly would both be good as well.
I've started making a list of schools with 3/1 deadlines that seem like viable candidates. This is by no means an exhaustive or carefully vetted list, just a starting point if you don't feel like looking up app deadlines.
Oh, one more random small question... I was prevented from dropping two classes due to a rules change one semester that was poorly advertised (long story short - under the rules from previous semesters I would have been able to drop them, and one of their websites listing the policy hadn't been updated to reflect the new deadline, so I missed said deadline by one day. my appeal was denied without comment and i took two 0.0s.). Is that an addendum-worthy fact?