As application season approaches, here are some resources to help aspiring law students decide where to apply for law school.
In many ways, choosing a law school is similar to dating – you want to find the absolute best option, and they have to choose you as much as you choose them. So where do you start the process of researching your options? The following are some of the best starting places for trying to decide what law schools to apply to:
But first, before you dive into researching law schools, take some time to do a little bit of self-evaluation. Make sure that you want to go to law school for the right reasons (like I said, it’s sort of like dating), and consider what type of law you’d like to eventually practice. This will help you narrow down your searches, which will make it easier to settle on a list of schools.
When I was researching law schools, the first place I started was the US News website. Each year, US News comes out with new rankings of law schools and graduate schools. It’s a good starting place for anyone looking to apply to law schools (especially if you eventually want to work in BigLaw, where the ranking of your alma mater matters when competing for jobs). On this site, you can see the rank of the school, the location, the average tuition and fees, and the enrollment (and if you want more statistics, there is the option of paying to see more). What’s even better is that US News also ranks law schools by specialty, so if there is a certain type of law you’d like to practice (like tax law or intellectual property law), you can find those rankings on the site as well.
The LSAC Website
The Law School Admission Council website contains a variety of information that is designed to help anyone who is planning to apply to law schools. You’ve likely already been to this website – the LSAC is the governing body that administers the LSAT. Here are some of the other resources available on the website that should help you in your decision.
How to Evaluate Law Schools
In one of their most helpful articles on the website, LSAC details how you should evaluate law schools as a sum of their parts. There are links to each of the deciding factors that should be taken into consideration and explanations as to how to use each piece of information.
Law Schools and Reputation
As previously stated, law schools are still ranked in a way that could affect employment down the line. For this reason, it is a good idea to take a look at the reputation of your top law schools before you apply to make sure it would be a place you’d like to spend three years. There are additional links and tips for things to consider in the article as well.
Assess Yourself Realistically
The most difficult part of the application process is assessing yourself realistically. Take a look at your LSAT scores and your undergraduate GPA – these are the two most important factors in law school admission, although many other things are also taken into consideration. By seeing where you fit, you’ll be able to decide what categories your top schools fit into – you can divide them into reach schools, good match schools, and safety schools.
LSAC Official Guide to ABA – Approved Law Schools
Likely the most helpful aspect of LSAC’s website is their law school guide. Here, you can plug in your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score, and you’ll be shown a list of all the schools who have submitted information to LSAC with your own chances of getting admitted shown. It’s a great way to see the average range of LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of past admitted students to your favorite schools.
Other Things to Consider
Once you’ve taken a look at the top schools in the type of law you’d like to practice and checked out LSAC’s plethora of resources, you can narrow your list even further by taking the following into account:
While it isn’t the most important factor that you should consider, one thing to keep in mind is that certain states may teach slightly different things in their law schools. It is because of this slight difference that you should be sure to take into account where you may want to practice law when you are applying. It’s often easier to find a job in the same area where you attended law school.
For many people, this is a huge factor when it comes to deciding on a law school. If there is a chance you can perhaps get in-state tuition, that’s something to consider – many people graduate with so much student loan debt that it’s suffocating, and avoiding that is a decision-maker for some.
Once you have your top schools picked out, it isn’t a terrible idea to visit the campuses, if you can. Sometimes you’ll step on campus and you’ll just know that this is the place for you. Or, on the flipside, you’ll know that there’s no way you could possibly live there for three years. Those strong feelings should definitely be taken into consideration – this is your life you’re deciding on, after all!
By the time you’ve reached this point, you should have a solid grasp of the schools that would be a good fit for you. It’s helpful if you apply to some reach schools, some schools that you consider yourself a good match for, and a couple of safety schools – this way, you have a variety of options and will likely have the opportunity to choose between several at the end of the process. At this point, you’re ready to apply – good luck!
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