Demystifying the Law School Application Process

Unlike applying for college, which can be a relatively straight-forward process, the steps to apply to law school truly feel confusing and labyrinthine. There is so much extra paperwork that needs to be sorted out before your application can be submitted. In addition, there are quite a few extra steps you need to take to make sure the law school application process goes smoothly and you are able to attend the school of your choosing. This can be a very stressful time. Organizing your transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and everything else can really begin to feel overwhelming.

The law school application process is time consuming and expensive, so it is important to restrict your list of potential law schools.  When choosing which law schools to apply to, it’s recommended to visit schools to acquire a feel for what it might be like to become a student there. Try and get a sense fo the city or town the school is located in and if it’s a location you feel you could comfortably live in for a few years. Then read through faculty profiles on the school’s website to get a sense of education you can expect to get. What kind of specialties tend to be taught there? You want to make sure you are focusing on schools that align with your professional interests.  When you’re looking for schools, keep your GPA and LSAT scores in mind. Those test scores are a primary factor in the law school application process. It’s a hard truth to hear, but make sure you are not wasting time and money applying to schools that are beyond your reach. Have realistic expectations when applying for law school and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and heartbreak down the line.

LSAT scores are one of the most important parts of the law school application process, but personal statements are also valuable in your law school application.  Every admission officer must think of why you would be a valuable addition to their law school, your goal at the statement is to demonstrate that to the admissions committee.  Do not expect to generate an announcement that is perfect on your very first try. It is a good idea to write several drafts and revise, and consult with advisors and teachers to get professional feedback.

When considering the various steps to apply to law school, you may be concerned about what your undergraduate work communicates about you. 

What Is the Most Effective Undergraduate Degree for Law School?

College students interested in law school often ask if they need to major in science or other pre-law fields, possibly to make themselves look impressive to law school admissions officials.  Although majoring in these fields can’t hurt, it also doesn’t provide the benefit you’d imagine. Actually, a few studies have shown that pupils who majored in science, technology, or mathematics might do much better in law school due to the rigorous instruction in logic they received.  Law is an extremely interdisciplinary field, drawing on history, economics, linguistics, sociology, and more. Meaning many different backgrounds can offer a fantastic foundation for law school.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that undergraduate grade point average (GPA) is an integral indicator law schools consider when evaluating applicants.  Law schools are incredibly worried with their own prestige, and the GPA (and LSAT scores) of those students they register is a significant factor in their U.S. News & World Report rankings. Being able to graduate with a high GPA is an achievement that law schools look for. If you are choosing an undergraduate major you have little interest or aptitude in simply to impress an admission officer, the chances are you will not be about the exhibit the level of success most schools are looking for.

The bottom line is that there really is no perfect undergraduate degree for law school.  Study something that interests you and you feel you’ll do well in, and don’t be concerned about whether the major “looks” good.

Decide Where to Apply to Law School

One of the most important steps to apply to law school is simply deciding what schools you would be interested in attending. Although some of the variables may be pretty self-explanatory, like reputation, cost, and legacy, you will probably end up looking into schools you are not very familiar with. Each potential law school has something to offer you, the key is to understand what exactly it is you are looking for and how each school can fulfill that need. So how do you decide which law schools are worth your attention?

  1. Location is important. Realize that you are dedicating several years of your life to law school. Not only will you want to live in an environment that you find comfortable, but you also need to remember this school exists in a community you will be getting involved with.  Think of possible networking and internship opportunities that will be open to you. Also, think about the students that might be attracted to each school’s location. These connections can prove to be incredibly important. Choosing the right school also means meeting the people you will help jumpstart your career once you bass the bar.
  2. Know your field of study. Law is a series of specialized disciplines. Knowing where your interests lie can help you determine which schools you should be applying to. Some may be known for their immigration law programs but do not have a reputation for criminal law. Knowing what disciplines your potential school is best known for can help you narrow the field of perspective schools. Put some serious thought into the field you’ll be pursuing before beginning the law school application process.
  3. Connect with alumni. It is easier than ever to locate alumni of your potential law school through social media. Don’t be afraid to reach out and solicit honest unfiltered feedback on the school and the program. Former students who speak highly of their experiences and have been able to find careers in their chosen field are an incredible resource.
  4. What kind of Real World experience is offered? Learn what kind of internships and other forms of hands on experience will be offered. Not every school is set up for learning outside of the classroom. Depending on your field of study, a purely classroom based education program may not be what’s best. Learn about which firms recruit on campus, that’ll key you into how prestigious the program is and if law firms consider graduates ready to get to work after graduation.

Law School Application Process

The following steps to apply to law school are not comprehensive by any means, but they can help get you organized and ready to go. Of course, every law school application is different and not every school is going to have the same requirements. However, most schools do place importance on the same metrics. If you are curious about what is need to apply to law school, this list can be a good place to start. Hopefully, this guide may answer many of those questions that you have regarding the law school application process.

  1. Take The LSAT. It is an unfortunate reality that the LSAT score is probably as important as your GPA when it comes to law school admissions. This one test will be the deciding factor on if your will be able to attend the school of your choice. Be sure to prepare as much as possible for the exam since it looks better if you only take it the one time.  Before you retake the LSAT exam make sure you ask yourself if you are truly able to get a much higher score. Doing as well, or worse, your second go round sends a worse signal to law schools than the original poor performance does.
  2. Register with CAS. CAS, formerly LSDAS, is a reporting service for law school applications. CAS organizes all of your application documentation in such an efficient way, most ABA certified law schools will not consider an application without one.
  3. Decide what schools you are applying to. By this point in the law school application process, you should have been able to narrow your list of potential schools. You will have visited, spoke to alumni, and ensured the schools you are applying to offer programs in the field you wish to specialize in. As mentioned early, the application process can get expensive. It does not make sense to apply to schools you are not fully invested in.
  4. Get Recommendations. Outside of grades and LSAT test scores, a good reference letter is a critical step for applying to law school. Remember, the admissions officers only know you by what’s written on the application. The best way to stand apart from the pack is to have a professor you’ve had a good relationship with, or someone who currently works in your desired field, speak about your character and dedication. These are relationships you should begin cultivating as soon as you know law school might be in your future. Your college professors may like you in class, but keep in mind they have hundreds of students a semester. If you let too much time pass, you can get lost in the fog of time.
  5. Don’t Forget About Financial Aid. Each law school on your list may have a different application for applying for financial aid, so you need to research the practice of each college separately. Some schools will even offer programs to offset tuition in exchange work working as a teacher’s assistant. Schools may also offer grants or loan plans in addition to merit scholarships.  But don’t just restrict your search to the law school’s themselves: you can find lots of outside scholarships you may apply for to help reduce the expense of law school. Any sort of aid can help to reduce your potential debt. 

If you are considering any of these steps to apply to law school, you are on the right track to getting the education you need to build the career you want. Becoming a lawyer is a long difficult process involving several years of graduate study and passing a grueling bar exam for every state you which to practice in. If you have what is needed to apply to law school and get accepted, you will still have years of hard work ahead of you before you will make a living with your dream career. 

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