Deciding you want to go to law school, whether you’re still in college, a few years out, or well into your career, is a huge moment. Maybe you’ve always known you wanted to be a lawyer, or maybe you’re just discovering law as a potential career. Either way, once you’ve determined that you’d like to start the process of applying to law school, you might be wondering where to begin.
All the different aspects of applying to law school, from figuring out a timeline to preparing for and taking the LSAT to putting together a standout application, can seem overwhelming. Here, I outline what to do next once you decide law school is your next step.
1. Decide on an admissions cycle and plan ahead
Applying to law school is a little different from applying to college in that admissions are typically rolling, and schools accept applications any time from about September through February or March for a spot in the following fall’s class. For example, if you want to start law school in Fall 2023, you would submit your application in late 2022 or early 2023.
However, you should apply earlier in the cycle (during the first three months or so) if possible to give yourself the best shot for acceptance (and scholarship money) before classes start to fill up. Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure your application will be ready to go the fall before you’d like to start law school. Working backward, you’re going to want to give yourself enough time to prepare for and take the LSAT, gather recommendation letters, and write your applications (more on all that below).
How much time that will all take depends on you and your situation. If you’re working a full-time job and have limited free time, you might want to give yourself a longer stretch, while if you have a chunk of time with few other responsibilities, the process might go a little more quickly. Either way, this is not something you want to rush, and there’s always the option to wait for the next cycle if you don’t feel ready.
2. Create a testing plan
Once you’ve decided the cycle you’d like to apply for, you should figure out when a good time is for you to take the LSAT. LSAT scores are valid for five years following your exam date, so there is quite a bit of flexibility in terms of when you can take the exam. The best time to take the test is when you can devote the majority of your time to studying for at least three to four months. However, if that’s not possible for you, not to worry! It just requires a little bit of a different schedule. Check out this post for tips on studying for the LSAT while working full-time.
While in a perfect world, you’d have taken the test by the spring or summer before you’d like to apply, it’s more important that you feel prepared to do your best. I took my LSAT in October of same year I applied, which is considered late, and I still had a successful cycle.
Once you have your exam date (and, ideally, a backup date in case the first sitting doesn’t go as you hoped) penciled in, it’s time to make a study plan. The LSAT is a beast of a test with many pitfalls, and, for most people, it requires quite a bit of work to do well. There are many options for preparation out there, from prep courses to tutoring to self-study to a combination thereof. On a budget? Check out this post on how to ace the LSAT without spending a fortune.
3. Create a list of schools
There are many factors to consider when creating a list. Looking at the median GPA and median LSAT score, the two most important factors in law school admissions, of a school’s recent classes and comparing it to your own can give you a sense of your odds of getting accepted there. That being said, stats aren’t everything, and just because your LSAT score or GPA is lower than the average at a given school does not mean you have zero chance at getting in.
Within the schools that generally match up with your profile, you might look at factors like location, student body size, programs in areas of law you might be interested in, scholarships and financial aid, and more. Check out this list of resources for deciding where to apply for law school.
4. Take stock of your schools’ application requirements and pick a realistic date to get your applications submitted
Most law schools require at least two recommendation letters, a resume, college transcript, and personal statement. In addition, many also have additional requirements and optional essays (which, of course, are not really optional). Also consider if you’ll want to include a diversity statement or an addendum explaining any unusual circumstances that may have affected your application. I recommend making a list of what you’ll need to submit for each school on your list to stay organized.
Based on all that, assess how much time it will require to get your applications done and set a realistic deadline for yourself. Be sure to let your recommenders know when you’re planning on submitting your applications (and maybe even tell them an earlier date, just to be safe). It’s a good idea to estimate more time than you think you’ll need, so you can still meet your deadline even if something unexpected comes up.
While applying to law school can be an overwhelming process, I hope the steps I’ve outlined here help make it a little easier to navigate. Things might get hard (looking at you, logic games), but all your hard work will pay off once you have your acceptances in hand.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.
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